Guidance

Export or move food, drink and agricultural products

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 (NI)

You need an export health certificate (EHC) or other certificate to export or move:

POAO means animal products for human consumption such as:

  • meat
  • fish
  • eggs
  • dairy
  • honey
  • gelatine

Some countries require another type of export certificate for certain products.

If your product was made in GB, 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) Centre for International Trade Carlisle 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:

  • lasagne
  • 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 NI

You’ll need an export health certificate (EHC) to:

  • export food or drink that contains POAO from GB to the EU
  • move them from GB to NI
  • transit through the EU and NI

If you’re moving food or drink that contains POAO to NI, 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 a grace period from certification for authorised traders moving food from GB to NI until 1 April 2021.

You’ll also need to:

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.

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.

Restricted and prohibited goods

EU rules mean you will not be able to export the following goods to the EU:

  • chilled minced meat (red meat)
  • chilled meat preparations (for example, raw sausages)
  • minced meat (poultry)
  • poultry and ratite/game bird mechanically separated meat
  • 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 will not be able to 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 GB to NI

You can continue to move the following ‘restricted and prohibited’ meat products from GB to NI from 1 January:

  • 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 GB from the EU

This will be in place for 6 months. The government will continue to explore permanent reciprocal arrangements.

You must also make sure the meat products:

  • enter NI through a designated point of entry, and follow the channeling procedure applicable from the designated point of entry through to the destination supermarket in Northern Ireland, as directed by the point of entry authority
  • are sold exclusively to end consumers in supermarkets located in NI, and they’re not sold to other operators of the food chain
  • are accompanied by official certificates issued by the UK competent authorities (based on similar models already existing for fresh meat, minced meat and meat preparations)
  • are packed for end consumers and have a label reading “These products from the United Kingdom may not be sold outside Northern Ireland”

Checks at EU Border Control Posts (BCPs) or point(s) of entry in NI

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 GB

The BCP will not usually contact you directly.

Return food products containing POAO rejected at EU BCPs from 1 January to 30 June 2021

From 1 January to 30 June 2021, consignments of food products that contain POAO rejected at EU BCPs may, subject to a risk assessment, re-enter GB 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 GB BCP or through any point of entry.

Documents you need to return your rejected food products containing POAO from 1 January

Email APHA Centre for International Trade (CIT) at imports@apha.gov.uk 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 GB 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 GB BCP.

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 imports@apha.gov.uk email address is monitored Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 5pm (excluding public holidays).

Returns process from 1 July 2021

Returned goods must enter GB at an appropriately designated BCP for checks on entry from 1 July 2021.

You must notify on IPAFFS and present the relevant documentation to the BCP as set out in the returned goods processes for animal products and live animals.

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.

Grace period for authorised traders moving food from GB to NI

There will be a 3 month grace period from certification through to 1 April 2021 for authorised traders such as supermarkets and their trusted suppliers from 1 January 2021. If you’re moving products of animal origin from GB to NI, you will not require official certification, such as export health certificates, phytosanitary certificates or marketing standards certification.

The government will not discriminate against smaller suppliers or between different companies in implementing these practical measures.

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 NI

Authorised traders

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 grace period.

A trusted supplier is any business that independently moves its products from GB to NI, for sale in NI.

For example, a meat pie supplier that moves its own products from GB to NI, which delivers directly to a store for sale within NI only would be eligible for authorised trader status.

However, a meat pie supplier that delivers products to a supermarket distribution centre in GB, which is then moved by the supermarket to NI, the producer would not qualify. In this instance, the supermarket would be the authorised trader for that movement into NI.

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 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 exports@apha.gov.uk 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 (MS Word Document, 38.6KB) to your computer
  • fill in all relevant parts, then email it to trader@rpa.gov.uk. 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(s) 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
Find out about call charges.

Published 11 November 2016
Last updated 8 January 2021 + show all updates
  1. Updated link to list of businesses approved to export to the EU.

  2. Updated with guidance on how to comply with rules from 1 January 2021 and updated certificate of free sale.

  3. Removed Export Licence application and adding in Link to the page where the form is on the page called AGREX: Export licence application form for agricultural products

  4. Updated information to show change in export process from 1 Jan 2021.

  5. Minor updates to IL3 form.

  6. Updated fees section due to 2019 regulations

  7. Restructured the links to no-deal information into a call out box to increase visibility and made some minor stylistic changes.

  8. Updated these publications with EU Exit information: Application for Export Services at Concessionary Rates Export of potatoes to non-ec countries Inspection application form / Consignment note Phytosanitary Certification of Grain for Export

  9. Added information for exporters about how to get an export health certificate if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.

  10. Grain information updated

  11. EHC list updated

  12. Export Health Certificate list updated

  13. EHC List updated

  14. Updated inspection fees due to fee changes from 6 April 2018.

  15. Added a link to the Soft Drinks Industry Levy guide and changed the title to include 'drink'. From January 2018, exporters of certain drinks with added sugar might have to pay a levy.

  16. First published.