Importing food for personal use

Frequently asked questions about importing food for personal use.
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What are the rules on bringing back food from a European Union (EU) country?

You can bring back a reasonable amount of any food on sale in any EU country. If it is considered to be for commercial purposes then it may be subject to checks. This also applies to personal imports of fish and shellfish from Iceland and the Faeroe Islands.

The EU Member States are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus*, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the UK.

* Though the whole of Cyprus is part of the EU, goods from any area of Cyprus not under the effective control of the Republic of Cyprus are treated as non-EU imports.

For these purposes EU countries and territories include Andorra, the Canary Islands, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, Liechtenstein, Norway, San Marino and Switzerland.

What are the rules on bringing back food from a country outside the EU?

You can bring back reasonable quantities of food that does not contain anything of animal origin. For large amounts, if it is considered to be for commercial purposes then it may be subject to checks by the port health authorities at the point of import.

Personal imports of fruit and raw vegetables from outside the EU may be subject to a limit of 2kg due to plant health restrictions. For information on what fruits and vegetables are restricted and which are not restricted, see the see the information on personal food, plant and animal product imports from Defra on GOV.UK. Also, personal imports of potatoes from non-EU countries are not permitted. For information about importing plants see the Plant Health section of the Food and Environment Research Agency (Fefa) website.

Some food products of non-animal origin are currently restricted for import to the EU for commercial purposes. Whilst these products can be brought in for personal use (however some for example kava kava are not permitted for personal use either), travellers need to be aware of any health risks that such products may cause due to possible contamination. You can read a list of restricted products.

Personal imports of meat, meat products, milk and milk products are not allowed from non-EU countries, except that a combined total of up to 10 kg is permitted in personal luggage or by post from Croatia, the Faroe Islands, Greenland or Iceland.

Up to 2kg of powdered infant milk, infant food and special foods for medical conditions containing products of animal origin for personal use are permitted. They must not require refrigeration before opening, and must be commercial brands of products in unbroken packaging. For visitors from Croatia, the Faeroe Islands, Greenland or Iceland this limit is up to 10kg.

Up to 2kg in total per person of the following animal products: live bivalves (eg mussels, oysters, scallops), eggs/egg products, frogs’ legs (only if skin and internal organs are removed), honey (only for countries with an approved residue monitoring plan), reptile and insect meat, and shelled, cooked, prepared/preserved of edible land snail meat are permitted.

Up to 20kg in total weight per person, or the weight of one fish, whichever weight is the highest, of fresh fish (must be gutted), fishery products e.g. processed fish (dried, cooked, cured or smoked), lobsters, crab, shrimps/prawns and dead bivalves e.g. mussels, oysters, scallops are permitted. Personal imports must be from approved countries outside the EU. Further details on the countries approved for these types of products can be found in European Commission Decision 2006/766/EC (as amended).

Up to 125g per person of caviar (of sturgeon species only) is permitted. The limit is imposed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) whose role is to safeguard species threatened by international trade. For more information see the CITES website.

For more information see the information on personal food, plant and animal product imports from Defra on GOV.UK. Please also bear in mind the composite products rules mentioned below.

You should note that there may be additional restrictions on importing food if circumstances present a risk to animal or human health. Please note that these restrictions can change rapidly, so you should check the up-to-date situation before you travel. See the searchable Import Rules section on the Defra website to find out what you can bring back into the UK for personal consumption.

If in doubt, our advice is not to bring those food products into the EU.

A composite product is defined as 'a foodstuff intended for human consumption that contains both processed products of animal origin and products of plant origin'.

Personal imports of composite products containing processed meat product are not allowed from countries outside the EU. If they contain other processed products of animal origin such as dairy, fishery and egg products, then they need to comply with the rules as set out by Defra on GOV.UK and are subject to the allowances mentioned above.

For many people the allowance limits described above will be sufficient. However, where it is not, travellers can consider making arrangements to bring in fishery products as commercial consignments. Before doing this see our advice on importing fishery products and bivalve molluscs.

What are the rules on personal imports of fish caught by anglers?

If you are on fishing trip in a non-EU country, you may want to bring your catches back to the UK, and these may exceed the 20kg allowance limit. As advised above, you will only be allowed to do this if the catch is brought back as a commercial consignment. Some fishing trip organisers or agents may be able to make arrangements for fish caught on fishing trips to be treated as commercial consignments. However, if these arrangements are not in place it will be your responsibility to ensure your catch is handled and prepared by an approved establishment for export to the UK.

Anglers travelling to Canada may also wish to access the Canadian Food Inspection Agency website which gives useful information on importing personal catches into the EU. See further details about European Union Import Requirements Affecting Canadian Sport Fish Lodges.

I'm coming back from a holiday outside the EU. Can I bring a wedding cake back with me to the UK?

You shouldn't have any problems bringing a wedding cake back to the UK from outside the EU, providing it does not contain fresh dairy content, such as fresh cream, Personal imports of dairy products are banned.

For further information, see the 'Bringing food products into the UK' leaflet on the HMRC website.

Can I bring smoked or dried meats, into the UK from a country outside the EU?

Personal imports of meats and meat products are not permitted, and will be seized by Customs officers.

For further information, see the 'Bringing food products into the UK' leaflet on the HMRC website.

What should I do if any foodstuffs I bring for personal use and/or as gifts are seized?

The Food Standards Agency cannot overturn any decisions made by the Customs Officer. If the product is seized, you are initially advised to contact the UKBA National Post Seizure Unit to discuss this with them. They can be contacted on 01752 765817. For further information on seizures of products, see the HMRC website.

I want to send a food parcel from a country outside the EU to family in the UK for personal consumption. Will this be allowed?

Providing the food parcel you wish to send is to a private, named individual and contains no meat and meat products, dairy products or any particular restricted products (for example Kava kava, which is not permitted either as a personal import or a commercial import) you may send a reasonable amount for personal consumption.

Are children entitled to an allowance for imported food for personal use?

Yes. Unlike the allowances for alcoholic drinks brought back to the UK, children are entitled to the same allowances as adults for food brought back for personal use.

How much alcohol can I bring back to the UK from outside the European Union for my personal use?

There are strict allowances for the amount of alcohol people can bring with them for their own personal use from non-European Union countries. For further information, see the GOV.UK website.