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
You need an export health certificate (EHC) or other certificate to export or move:
- processed food and drink
- food or drink that contains products of animal origin (POAO)
- 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 drinks
You need an EHC to export or move most processed food and drink products that contain POAO to:
You do not usually need an EHC if your processed food and drink product does not contain POAO.
Examples of processed foods containing POAO include products such as:
- pork pie
You may also need a certificate of free sale to export processed food and drink to non-EU countries. The food authority in the country you’re exporting to will tell you if you need one.
If you export any soft drinks with added sugar, you may need to register for the Soft Drinks Industry Levy. You can claim a credit for any exported drinks you pay the levy on.
Export or move food or drink that contains POAO to the EU or Northern Ireland
You’ll need an export health certificate (EHC) to:
- export food or drink that contains POAO from Great Britain to the EU
- move them from Great Britain to Northern Ireland
- transit through the EU and Northern Ireland
If you’re moving food or drink that contains POAO to Northern Ireland, you do not need to pay for them to be inspected and certified. The certifier invoices the government for these costs as part of the Movement Assistance Scheme.
There’s an arrangement for authorised traders moving food from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
You’ll also need to:
- get your goods checked at an EU border control post (BCP) or Northern Ireland point of entry in the first country you enter
- 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 Northern Ireland point of entry for how much notice needs to be given
- comply with wider HMRC guidance on customs requirements for exporting to the EU
- follow HMRC guidance for moving goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland
There are different rules for exporting or moving:
You should read additional rules if you:
- export composite food products to the EU
- want to check if your product counts as a composite food product
Make sure you follow general guidance for businesses exporting to the EU.
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 or move to the EU or Northern Ireland 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 export health certificate to be exported or moved to the EU or Northern Ireland.
Before you export your samples, contact the veterinary BCP where the samples will enter the EU to check the export requirements.
EU listing for exporters and suppliers
You need to be listed as an approved business with the EU if you export food that contains POAO.
Use a logistics hub to export or move your products
You can use a logistics hub to export or move POAO.
Using a logistics hub can save you time by speeding up border processes. It does this by providing a central point for exports and expert staff in one location.
A logistics hub can:
- consolidate 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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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 the following goods to the EU:
- 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 herds
- ungraded eggs
- composite products containing dairy products made from unpasteurised milk (for example, a ready meal topped with unpasteurised cheese)
You cannot re-export certain animal and animal products including:
- fresh meat originally from the EU or non-EU countries
- milk not from the UK
- products using products of animal origin from non-EU countries that are not listed by the EU for the purpose of imports into the EU
Movements from Great Britain to Northern Ireland
You can move the following prohibited and restricted meat products from Great Britain to Northern Ireland:
- frozen or chilled minced meat of poultry, ratites and wild game birds
- chilled minced meat from animals other than poultry
- chilled meat preparations
- any unprocessed meat produced from meat initially imported into Great Britain from the EU
You must make sure the meat products:
- enter Northern Ireland through a designated point of entry as directed by the point of entry authority
- are sold exclusively to end consumers in supermarkets located in Northern Ireland - they must not be sold to other operators in the food chain
- are packed for end consumers and have a label reading “These products from the United Kingdom may not be sold outside Northern Ireland”
- are accompanied by a prohibited and restricted export health certificate
- meet EU standards (for example, the meat product must be from the UK or an approved non-EU third country)
- to complete a Common Health Entry Document (CHED) on Traces to pre-notify the point of entry
- a prohibited and restricted (P and R) EHC for each consignment of these goods
Check the export health certificate (EHC) finder and apply for a certificate for your product.
You’ll need a certificate for each product type, rather than for each lorry.
Each certificate must be signed by an official veterinarian (OV).
You’ll be eligible for financial support toward the cost of P and R EHC certificates. Your OV can invoice the government for costs up to £150.00 (+ VAT) per EHC, as part of the Movement Assistance Scheme (MAS).
Checks at EU Border Control Posts (BCPs) or points of entry in Northern Ireland
You must get food and drink that contains POAO checked at an EU BCP or point of entry in NI.
These checks are made to protect:
- animal health and welfare
- public health
Your goods may be refused entry, seized, destroyed or returned to GB if they arrive at:
- a port in the EU without a BCP where checks cannot be carried out
- an EU BCP that cannot check your type of product
- an EU BCP without the correct documentation
Find the correct BCP for your goods
You must find a BCP that accepts your type of goods as not all BCPs accept all goods.
You’ll need to consider how to redirect your trade route if needed.
There are more than 400 BCPs in the EU and they’re usually at EU ports and airports.
Check the full list of EU BCPs.
Give advance notice to EU BCPs or point(s) of entry in NI
You’ll need to give EU BCPs or points of entry in NI advance notice of goods arriving.
Check with the BCP or point of entry you’re planning to use for how much notice is needed.
Contact your import agent in the EU or NI to make sure they notify the BCP through TRACES of 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
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 will:
- notify your importer or agent
- ask them to decide whether your goods should be destroyed or returned to Great Britain
The BCP will not usually contact you directly.
Return food products containing POAO rejected at EU BCPs
Consignments of food products that contain POAO rejected at EU BCPs may, subject to a risk assessment, re-enter Great Britain through any point of entry.
You’ll need to provide certain documents to return your rejected goods.
Officials from the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) will carry out the risk assessment and notify you if the returned consignment needs to enter through a Great Britain BCP or through any point of entry.
Documents you need to return your rejected food products containing POAO
Email APHA Centre for International Trade (CIT) at email@example.com 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 describing the reason for refusal of entry
- full details of destination in Great Britain and the intended use or destruction of the returned consignment from the person responsible for the consignment
- the original export 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 where the seal is broken for official control purposes, you must have an official declaration from the EU BCP stating the:
- place and date of unloading and reloading of the consignment
- consignment did not undergo any handling other than unloading, storage and reloading
- products were handled only to the extent necessary for the purposes of official controls at the appropriate temperature
- unloading and reloading of the consignment was handled hygienically to avoid cross-contamination
- consignment was stored under hygienic conditions at the required temperature and not at risk of cross contamination
- effective measures were put in place to avoid the contamination of the POAO with disease agents which cause transmissible animal diseases during the unloading, storage and re-loading in the EU country
- place of any unloading, storage and re-loading in the EU country was not subject to animal health movement restrictions due to transmissible animal diseases during the unloading, storage and re-loading
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:
- since the product was originally exported, the storage and transport conditions have been complied with
- that 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
Arrangements for authorised traders moving food from Great Britain to Northern Ireland
An arrangement is in place which allows authorised traders such as supermarkets and their trusted suppliers to move some goods without the need for official certification.
If you’re an authorised trader moving products of animal origin from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, you do not need official certification, such as export health certificates, phytosanitary certificates or marketing standards certification. However, if you’re moving prohibited or restricted goods to Northern Ireland you need to apply for an export health certificate.
The following conditions will be attached to these arrangements:
- the goods are packaged for end consumers and they bear a label reading “These products from the United Kingdom may not be marketed outside Northern Ireland”
- they are destined solely for sale to end consumers in supermarkets located in Northern Ireland, and they cannot be sold to other operators of the food chain
- they are accompanied by a simplified official certificate globally stating the products meet all the import requirements of EU legislation
- they enter Northern Ireland through a designated point of entry, where they are submitted to a systematic documentary check and to a risk-based identity check on a selection of items in the means of transport they are monitored through a channelling procedure applicable from the designated point of entry to the destination supermarket in Northern Ireland
Authorised traders are supermarkets and their trusted suppliers. The UK government will not discriminate against smaller suppliers or between different companies in recognising traders as authorised for the purpose of this arrangement.
A trusted supplier is any business that independently moves its products from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, for sale in Northern Ireland.
For example, a meat pie supplier that moves its own products from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, which delivers directly to a store for sale within Northern Ireland only would be eligible for authorised trader status. However, a meat pie supplier that delivers products to a supermarket distribution centre in Great Britain, which is then moved by the supermarket to Northern Ireland, the producer would not qualify. In this instance, the supermarket would be the authorised trader for that movement into Northern Ireland.
Export food and drink to non-EU countries
You usually need to complete an EHC and some supporting documents to export food 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 or 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 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 email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
If you need help
Contact the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) Rural Payments Agency Telephone: 03300 416 500 Monday to Friday: 8:30am to 5pm
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