Importing and exporting food

Importing food

Foods imported into the UK may contain diseases which may harm animal health and public health. There are regulations in place to control importing, and the sale of imported food. If illegally imported foods are found at your business, officers may seize and destroy these. You may also be charged costs for disposal of the food and you could also face prosecution.

As a food business:

  • you must know where your food comes from; during any inspection you must be able to identify the name and address of the supplier of any item
  • you should keep contact names and addresses for all your suppliers
  • you must ensure food traceability documents are available, such as invoices and receipts and
  • you must always use reputable suppliers and do not use suppliers who are unable to provide their contact details as well as an invoice or receipt.

For further information on imported foods and general guidance for businesses, visit Food Standards Agency website.

Exporting Food

If your business exports food or drink out of the UK, then you may require a Food Export Health Certificate (EHC.) These certificates confirm that a specific business complies with all relevant legislation and the food produced is without risk to health.

What products require an Export Health Certificate?

  • Meat
  • Dairy
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Hides and skins
  • Pet food
  • Miscellaneous: other animal products and by-products of animal origin, i.e. germplasm; semen, ova and embryos; chicken feed; bovine hooves; gelatine; antlers; and bones
  • High Risk Foods Not of Animal Origins (HRFNAO): From 1 January 2021 exports of certain HRFNAO will require sampling and certification in order to be exported to the EU or moved to NI

What information goes in an Export Health Certificate?

  1. Exporter / Manufacturer - name and address
  2. Commodity- batch code, amount, weight, and type of food product being shipped. Note: if you are exporting a consignment that is a mix of products, you will need an EHC for each type.
  3. Consignment Details - these include the container, seal number and ship or flight details. Note: you may also need an EHC for each country your consignment goes through, as well as for its final destination.
  4. Health Marks - these confirm that the animal/meat product meets GB food standards. They include the GB 'oval mark'.
  5. Confirmation of Origin - some EHCs demand proof of the country of origin and any additional ones where it has been processed.
  6. Storage Conditions - these include statements on optimum temperatures for freshness and hygiene, whether freezing is required and if the commodity should be separated from other goods.
  7. Health Statements - different countries will have different requirements. Among those often requested are confirmation of heat treatment and freedom from contamination and certain diseases.

How to apply

Dependent on the destination, importing country and the commodity type, an export health certificate will have to be sourced from the Animal Plant Health Agency (APHA). You must nominate an official vet or local authority inspector to sign the certificate.

You must register with APHA before you can complete an export health certificate 

Register for export health certificate

For more information, email APHA at, call 03000 200 301 or visit the website.

When you find the EHC you need, you will also find information about any supporting documents required and Notes for Guidance (NFG). However, in some cases, there will not be a relevant EHC template. Where this occurs, we may be able to assist you with producing a bespoke EHC.

If there is an export health certificate template in place you will be required to complete and submit an application form using APHA's EHC online system. If you are proposing to nominate an inspector from the London Borough of Hillingdon, you must check with us first to ensure that we can deliver the certificate as required. Five days' notice is required before the consignment is scheduled to depart.

It is the responsibility of the exporting business to find out what the import requirements are in the destination country. This is information that is needed before applying for an EHC.

Once the applicable certificate has been arranged, the local authority inspector or the official vet  will normally need to contact the business to arrange a suitable time and date to view the consignment in order to undertake relevant checks and view any associated documents such as HACCP monitoring records and laboratory test reports, etc. Once this has been completed, the certificate will be issued.

An export Health Certificate cannot be signed if:

  • you have not registered your food business with the council
  • hygiene standards and/or practices fail to meet food safety standards
  • we cannot assure the safety of any individual batch or consignment of food
  • your export has already left the UK or is no longer under your control


  • Documentary check £83
  • Physical check £143
  • (Sampling is subject to an hourly charge and full costs of analysis)

Please note: From 1 April 2021, traders of the some high-risk food and feed of non-animal origin (HRFNAO) products listed in Annex 2 of regulation 2019/1793 and products originating from countries listed in Annex 1 of regulation 2020/1158 (those at risk due to radioactive elements following the Chernobyl accident) do not need to pay official certification costs (including lab sampling costs) when moving products to Northern Ireland. Rules for importing, exporting and moving fresh fruit and vegetables to, from and around the UK.

Find out more about importing and exporting fresh fruit and vegetables

Details here:

Instead, the official certification costs for the HRFNAO products listed will be incurred by local authorities.

Further Information

Ways to pay

By debit or credit card - we will contact you by phone to enable you to make a card payment.

Contact details

Hillingdon Council
Food Health and Safety Team
3S/08 Civic Centre
High Street

Telephone: 01895 250190


Page last updated: 12 May 2022