What you need to do to export or move food, drink and agricultural products.
This guidance applies to businesses in Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) exporting or moving food, drink and agricultural products to, or through:
- the EU
- non-EU countries
- Northern Ireland through the ‘red lane’ (full customs requirements)
The Northern Ireland Retail Movement Scheme (NIRMS) allows traders to move eligible goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland under ‘green lane’ customs arrangements. Find out more about NIRMS.
You need an export health certificate (EHC) or other certificate to export or move:
- food or drink that is a product of animal origin (POAO) or contains products of animal origin
- processed food and drink
- vegetables, fruit and other plants used as food
POAO means animal products for human consumption such as:
Some countries require another type of export certificate for certain products.
If your product was made in Great Britain, check with the food safety team in the local authority where your product was manufactured.
You can check each country’s rules by talking to your importer or getting help researching your export market.
There’s a ban on exporting caviar, caviar substitutes, truffles and goods containing truffles to Syria and North Korea.
Contact the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) for details.
Export or move processed food and drink
You need an EHC to export or move most processed food or drink products that contain POAO to:
You do not usually need an EHC if your processed food or drink product does not contain POAO.
Examples of processed foods containing POAO include:
- pork pies
You may also need a certificate of free sale to export processed food or drink to non-EU countries. The food authority in the country you’re exporting to will tell you if you need one.
Export or move food or drink that contains POAO to the EU or Northern Ireland
You need an EHC for food or drink that contains POAO to:
- export it from Great Britain to the EU
- move it from Great Britain to Northern Ireland through the red lane
- transit through the EU
- transit through Northern Ireland
If you’re moving food or drink that contains POAO to Northern Ireland, you do not need to pay for it to be inspected and certified when you’re getting an EHC. The certifier invoices the government for these costs as part of the Movement Assistance Scheme.
You’ll also need to:
- get your goods checked at an EU border control post (BCP) in the first country they enter or at a Northern Ireland point of entry
- make sure your EU or Northern Ireland-based import agent has notified the BCP or Northern Ireland point of entry that your consignment is arriving - check with the BCP or point of entry for how much notice needs to be given
- follow wider guidance on requirements for exporting
Read additional guidance if you’re:
- moving goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland
- exporting composite food products to the EU or moving them to Northern Ireland through the red lane
Health visits from vets
From 13 December 2023, farmers will need to provide evidence that animals used to make food, drink and agricultural products that may be exported to the EU had annual health visits by a vet.
The food chain information (FCI) documents for the animals will need to include either a:
- qualifying farm assurance scheme membership number
- vet attestation number (VAN) from an annual health and welfare review (known as a pathway visit) or vet attestation visit
Maximum residue levels
Food you export to the EU or move to Northern Ireland through the red lane must meet EU rules on maximum residue levels (MRLs). This includes food containing POAO. Check the rules for:
The EU will reject consignments containing food that do not comply with EU MRLs.
Commercial samples containing POAO
Commercial samples of goods that contain POAO need an EHC to be exported to the EU or moved to Northern Ireland through the red lane.
Before you export samples to the EU, contact the veterinary BCP where the samples will enter the EU to check their import requirements.
Businesses approved for exporting to the EU
If you export food or drink that contains POAO to the EU, or move it to Northern Ireland through the red lane, you need to be listed as an approved business.
Use a logistics hub to export or move your products
You can use a logistics hub to export food or drink that contains POAO to the EU or move it to Northern Ireland through the red lane.
A logistics hub can save you time by speeding up border processes, as it provides a central point for exports and expert staff in one location.
A logistics hub can:
- group your batch of products with others from different suppliers into a single consignment
- collect your products and transport them to their destination in the EU or Northern Ireland
- complete and process the EHCs for your products - including access to a certifying officer
- provide a customs brokerage service
Not all logistics hubs offer the same services. Contact your logistics company or email email@example.com to find out more about logistics hubs.
Your products need to be accompanied by the relevant supporting documents when they arrive at the logistics hub. For example, if you’re exporting meat, you may need to provide evidence from the cutting plant or slaughterhouse that shows the geographical origin of the animal.
The certifying officer will need to check these documents before they can certify the EHC.
Contact the logistics hub to find out what information you need to send with your products, and when you need to send it.
Prohibited and restricted goods
EU rules mean you cannot export or move the following goods to the EU or Northern Ireland through the red lane:
- chilled minced meat (red meat)
- chilled meat preparations (for example, raw sausages)
- minced poultry meat
- mechanically separated meat from poultry, ratite and game birds
- raw milk from TB (tuberculosis) herds
- ungraded eggs
If you plan to re-export or move imported food or drink that contains POAO to the EU or Northern Ireland through the red lane, follow guidance on what’s eligible for re-exporting.
Checks at EU Border Control Posts (BCPs) or points of entry in Northern Ireland
If you’re exporting food or drink that contains POAO to the EU or moving it to Northern Ireland, you must get it checked at an EU BCP or Northern Ireland point of entry.
These checks are made to protect:
- animal health and welfare
- public health
Your goods may be refused entry, seized, destroyed or returned to Great Britain if they arrive at:
- a port or airport in the EU that does not have a BCP that can carry out checks
- an EU BCP or Northern Ireland point of entry that cannot check your type of product
- an EU BCP or Northern Ireland point of entry without the correct documentation
Find the correct EU BCP or Northern Ireland point of entry for your goods
You must find an EU BCP or Northern Ireland point of entry that accepts your type of goods as not all of them accept all goods.
You’ll need to consider how to redirect your trade route if needed.
There are more than 400 EU BCPs and Northern Ireland points of entry.
Give advance notice to the EU BCP or Northern Ireland point of entry
You’ll need to give the EU BCP or Northern Ireland point of entry advance notice of goods arriving.
Check with the BCP or point of entry you’re planning to use about how much notice is needed.
Your import agent should use TRACES to notify the BCP or point of entry about the arrival of the consignment. They must do this within the time limits set out by the BCP or point of entry.
What happens if your goods fail inspection at an EU BCP or Northern Ireland point of entry
If your goods fail inspection because of risks to animal or public health, they will be destroyed immediately. If the goods fail for other reasons, the BCP or point of entry will:
- notify your importer or agent
- ask them to decide whether your goods should be destroyed or returned to Great Britain
The BCP or point of entry will not usually contact you directly.
Return food products containing POAO rejected at an EU BCP or Northern Ireland point of entry
Consignments of food products containing POAO that are rejected at an EU BCP or Northern Ireland point of entry may, subject to a risk assessment, re-enter Great Britain.
You’ll need to provide certain documents to return your rejected goods.
Officials from APHA will carry out the risk assessment and notify you if the returned consignment needs to enter through a Great Britain BCP or can enter through any point of entry.
Documents you need to return your rejected food products containing POAO
Email APHA Centre for International Trade (CIT) at firstname.lastname@example.org to return a consignment. State that the message relates to the return of a consignment.
Attach these documents to the email:
- a declaration from the EU BCP or Northern Ireland point of entry describing the reason for refusal of entry
- full details of the destination in Great Britain and the intended use or destruction of the returned consignment from the person responsible for the consignment
- the original export health certificate for the returned product
You’ll need to provide a commercial invoice, or similar, to verify that the returned consignment is the one that was exported, if the consignment did not:
- require a veterinary certificate
- have a certificate for export
If the consignment was not originally exported in a sealed container, or if the seal was broken for official control purposes, you must have an official declaration from the BCP or point of entry stating:
- the place and date of unloading and reloading of the consignment
- that the consignment did not undergo any handling other than unloading, storage and reloading
- that the products were handled only to the extent necessary for the purposes of official controls at the appropriate temperature
- that the unloading and reloading of the consignment were handled hygienically to avoid cross contamination
- that the consignment was stored under hygienic conditions at the required temperature and not at risk of cross contamination
- that effective measures were put in place to avoid the contamination of the POAO with disease agents that cause transmissible animal diseases during the unloading, storage and reloading in the EU country or Northern Ireland
- that the place of any unloading, storage and reloading in the EU country or Northern Ireland was not subject to animal health movement restrictions due to transmissible animal diseases during the unloading, storage and reloading
If the rejected product was originally exported in a sealed container and maintained an intact original seal, you must have a declaration by the person responsible for the consignment stating that:
- since the product was originally exported, the storage and transport conditions have been followed
- the content of the consignment has not been altered
APHA will assess this information to decide the conditions of import and if the consignment can be returned through any point of entry or will have to enter through a BCP in Great Britain.
APHA will issue you with a written authorisation. The consignment cannot be returned until you have received this authorisation. You must comply with the conditions of the authorisation.
The email@example.com email address is monitored Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 5pm (excluding public holidays).
Export or move vegetables, fruit and other plants used as food
You may need a phytosanitary certificate (PC) to export fruit, vegetables, plants and plant products used as food.
Export food and drink to non-EU countries
You usually need to complete an EHC and some supporting documents to export food or drink that contains POAO to non-EU countries. You may also need a certificate of free sale if you’re exporting processed food or drink. The food authority in the country you’re exporting to will tell you if you need one.
Check the export health certificate (EHC) finder to see if a certificate exists for your animal product.
If you find an EHC, follow the EHC process to export.
If you cannot find an EHC for your product, you’ll need to contact the competent authority in the EU country you’re exporting to, in advance, to find out what:
- paperwork you’ll need to fill in
- rules you need to comply with
If the competent authority says that you need an EHC, you’ll need to get their import conditions. Email the conditions to APHA at firstname.lastname@example.org who’ll arrange an EHC for you.
Apply for a certificate of free sale
To apply for a certificate of free sale, you should:
- save a copy of the application form to your computer
- fill in all relevant parts, then email it to email@example.com. Valid forms are processed within 5 working days of receiving them.
You should allow 10 working days from sending your application to receiving your certificate back. It’s free to apply and the certificates do not expire unless the country you’re exporting to specifies a time limit.
Re-export POAO imported to Great Britain
Re-exporting (also known as ‘triangular trade’) is when a product is imported from a country into Great Britain and then exported back to that country or to a different country.
Re-export or move imported POAO to the EU or Northern Ireland
Some POAO imported to Great Britain from an EU or non-EU country need ‘further processing’ to be eligible for re-exporting to the EU or moving to Northern Ireland through the red lane. These are POAO where the EU export health certificate includes animal health requirements.
Further processing means any processing that substantially alters the initial product. For example, for meat this includes heating, smoking, curing, maturing, drying, marinating, extraction, extrusion or a combination of these processes.
Further processing is not necessary if the EU export health certificate only includes public health requirements (for example, honey).
You can also re-export or move POAO imported from the EU or Northern Ireland back to the EU or Northern Ireland through the red lane using an EHC 8461. This only applies if the product has not been:
- removed from its original packaging
- handled beyond unloading, reloading, transporting and storage
You cannot re-export or move products using POAO from non-EU countries that are not listed by the EU for the purpose of imports into the EU.
Re-export POAO to non-EU countries
The rules for re-exporting POAO imported from an EU or non-EU country to a non-EU country depend on:
- Great Britain’s market access arrangements with that country
- the conditions of the relevant export health certificate
Re-exporting POAO from 30 April 2024
From 30 April 2024, under the Border Target Operating Model (BTOM), you’ll no longer need a health certificate to import some low-risk POAO from non-EU countries to Great Britain. Where this is the case, a certifying officer will no longer be able to rely on a mandatory health certificate for the information they need to certify the goods for re-export.
If the goods need an EHC to be re-exported, it is your responsibility to provide the certifying officer with the necessary supporting evidence. You’ll need to plan well in advance, as it may not be possible to get the supporting evidence after the goods have left the country of origin.
Before the goods leave the country of origin, you should:
- check if you’re allowed to re-export the goods to the destination country
- check with the certifying officer what supporting evidence you’ll need to provide
- ask the exporter to provide the necessary evidence
Sources of supporting evidence can include:
- a certificate from an official or authorised vet in the country of origin
- the Common Health Entry Document (CHED) created when the goods enter Great Britain
For more information:
- check with the certifying officer
- refer to the official guidance notes published with the EHC
If you need help
Contact APHA Centre for International Trade in Carlisle.
Telephone: 03000 200 301
We need your help to improve GOV.UK
If you need to export goods to the EU, or move goods into Northern Ireland, we’d like to hear about your experiences. If you’re happy for us to contact you, fill in this short form. Your feedback will help us improve our services and guidance.