Get help to classify herbal medicines, vitamins, food preparations, supplements and tonics for import and export.
This guidance covers products often referred to as:
- herbal medicines or medicaments
- homoeopathic and herbal remedies
- supplements (food and dietary)
They’re classified by:
- their purpose – whether they’re medicinal or for general health and well-being
- their contents and additives
- the way in which they’re made up, for example, for retail sale or in measured doses for a specific use
Defining vitamins, food preparations and herbal medicines
When classifying medicinal preparations, particularly in chapter 30, the following terms may apply:
- active substance – a chemically defined substance or group of substances, such as alkaloids, polyphenols, anthocyanins or plant extracts (must have medicinal properties to prevent or treat specific diseases, ailments or symptoms)
- excipient – a non-nutritional substance (such as magnesium stearate) that is added during the production of tablets
- provitamin – a substance which can be converted into a vitamin within the body
- herbal medicinal preparations – preparations based on one or more active substances, obtained from a plant (or parts of a plant) by a process such as drying, crushing, extraction or purification
- homeopathic medicinal preparations – preparations from products, substances or compositions called ‘homeopathic stocks’ or ‘mother tinctures’, where the mother tinctures are diluted (for example, in alcohol or water, the degree of dilution must be shown as a figure such as ‘D6’)
- vitamin or mineral preparations – preparations based on vitamins (covered under heading 2936) or based on minerals (including trace elements and mixtures of minerals), used to treat or prevent specific diseases, ailments or their symptoms (generally containing 3 times more than the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamins and minerals)
Vitamins and provitamins
Heading 2936 specifically covers:
- derivatives used mainly as vitamins
- mixtures of provitamins, vitamins and vitamin derivatives
Separately defined organic compounds, like vitamins, must comply with strict conditions specifying which additives are allowed to be classified in chapter 29.
They can be dissolved in water (or in some other solvent), but the solution must only be used where it’s required for safety reasons or transport purposes.
Stabilisers (such as anti-caking agents) and specified additives (such as antioxidants) can be added, but only to preserve the vitamin compound or for transport purposes.
Vitamin products will not be classified under heading 2936 if added ingredients:
- are for purposes other than preservation or transport – for example, binder ingredients and the for capsule shells to indicate dosage
- have the intended purpose of giving the product a specific use (rather than a general use) – for example, where capsules are used to indicate a daily dosage
Vitamin products for use as food supplements, in individual capsules, tablets or caplets, are classified as food preparations under 2106.
Food preparations and supplements
Products classified as food preparations under heading 2106 include:
- food or dietary supplements (based on substances like plant extracts, fruit concentrates, honey or fructose) that contain added vitamins – the packaging often indicates they’re beneficial for maintaining general health or well-being
- mixtures of plants (or parts of plants) with other ingredients, such as plant extracts (these mixtures are used to make herbal teas and infusions) – the final product may have a particular purpose, including being used as a laxative, purgative or diuretic, but some may also claim they use it to:
- relieve symptoms and ailments
- promote general health or well-being
- mixtures of ginseng extract with other ingredients, to make ginseng tea or other drinks
Products that do not treat, cure or prevent diseases or ailments are generally classified as food preparations, and so are classified under this heading.
Tonics and liquid food supplements
Tonics and liquid food supplements intended for immediate consumption are covered in chapter 22. These products contain added vitamins or iron compounds and are designed to maintain general health or well-being. They’re generally covered under one of the following headings:
- 2202 – non-alcoholic beverages
- 2205 – aromatised wines
- 2206 – mixtures of fermented beverages, mixtures of fermented beverages with non-alcoholic beverages and other fermented beverages
- 2208 – spirituous beverages, even when designed to be taken in small quantities (including products such as tonic wine fortified with herbal extracts or vitamins, and liquid herbal remedies with a basis of distilled alcohol)
Animal feed supplements
Animal feed supplements that contain vitamins and other ingredients (such as cereals and proteins) are classified in heading 2309.
This heading excludes vitamins intended for general use, where only permitted substances (such as stabilisers) are added to them. These are classified in heading 2936 – see Vitamins and provitamins.
Herbal medicinal preparations and medicaments
Products used to treat or prevent diseases or ailments are classified in heading 3003 or 3004. They may be used:
- internally or externally
- to treat humans or animals
Products used to maintain general health and well-being are specifically excluded from chapter 30.
Medicinal preparations made up into measured doses (such as ampoules, syringes or capsules) are classified under heading 3004. Heading 3004 also covers the retail sale of:
- herbal and homoeopathic medicinal preparations
- certain preparations containing:
- essential amino acids
- fatty acids
These products must include specific information for consumers on their labels or packaging, or on accompanying user directions. This information must show the:
- specific diseases, ailments or deficiencies (or their symptoms) for which the product is to be used
- concentration of the active substances the product is based on
- mode of application
Where the product is for maintaining general health or well-being, it must include a much higher level of vitamins and minerals than the recommended daily allowance.
Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA)
RDA for vitamins
An RDA is set for certain vitamins and minerals. The RDA is the minimum amount needed by the body to remain healthy. The following table on nutrition labelling of foodstuffs sets out the RDA for a range of vitamins and minerals:
|Vitamin A||800 micrograms|
|Vitamin D||5 micrograms|
|Vitamin E||12 milligrams|
|Vitamin K||75 micrograms|
|Vitamin C||80 milligrams|
|Vitamin B6||1.4 milligrams|
|Folic acid||200 micrograms|
|Vitamin B12||2.5 micrograms|
|Pantothenic acid||6 milligrams|
RDA for minerals
If this guidance covers your item, you’ll still need to look up the full commodity code to use in your declaration on the appropriate tariff.
If a specific item is not covered in detail and you’re importing goods into Great Britain, you can search for it in the Online Trade Tariff.
If you’re importing goods into Northern Ireland from outside the UK, and the EU and the goods are not ‘at risk’ of onward movement to the EU, you should also use the Online Trade Tariff.
If you’re importing goods into Northern Ireland from outside the UK and the EU, and the goods are at risk of onward movement to the EU, you should use the Northern Ireland (EU) Tariff.