Importing and exporting food

Information on regulations for 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 the 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, such as invoices and receipts, are available
  • you must always use reputable suppliers and do not use suppliers who are unable to provide their contact details, invoice or receipt.

More information on imported foods and general guidance for businesses can be found on the 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, ie germplasm; semen, ova and embryos; chicken feed; bovine hooves; gelatine; antlers; and bones
  • High Risk Foods Not of Animal Origins (HRFNAO) - 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.

Applying for an export health certificate

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 Hillingdon Council, you must check with us first to ensure that we can deliver the certificate as required. 5 days' notice is required before the consignment is scheduled to depart. If you are nominating an inspector from Hillingdon Council, you must understand that the inspectors have statutory work involving remote working, which sometimes can make them temporarily unavailable.

It is the responsibility of the exporting business to find out what the current import requirements are in the destination country. You or your agent must do this, and it is information that is needed before applying for an EHC.

If you are using an online certificate and submit it with errors, you will need to start again by resubmitting a new certificate. The types of food, unit quantities and weights between packing lists and invoices must match what is on the certificate to avoid any delay in issuing your certificate.

If the food you are exporting has different temperature control requirements, eg frozen fish and fresh fish, the country may require separate certificates - you must check this with your importing agent.

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

Products Of Animal Origin (POAO) charges

POAO documentary check only (visit not required)

  • Standard rate - £119
  • Additional hours (chargeable after 1st hour) - £88 per hour

POAO visit

  • 1st hour - £205
  • Additional hours - £88 per hour

Charges for products not of animal origin

Products not of animal origin (visit not required)

  • Standard rate - £101
  • Additional hours (chargeable after 1st hour) - £74 per hour

Products not of animal origin (visit required)

  • Standard rate - £173
  • Additional hours (chargeable after 1st hour) - £74 per hour

Please note: We will contact you by phone to enable you to make a card payment.

Further information

Page last updated: 01 Apr 2024