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Home > Business > Food Safety > Food imports

Food imports

If your business brings food into the country from another European Union (EU) state, this is seen as not an import. You will not be subject to being checked at the port. This is because there is free motion of goods within the EU and the same food safety standards are applied across all member states. 

If your business brings food into the country from outside of the EU, you need to be aware of the legal requirements. Meat products, for example, can only be brought in from a country approved to send out that type of product to the EU. They must have with it animal health and public health certificates. It must come from EU-approved premises, and enter the EU through a Border Inspection Post where vets carry out checks. These controls are in place to protect human and animal health within the EU. 

It is not just foods of animal origin that are controlled. Some plants and plant products are not allowed to enter this country. Others are limited and must have with them a 'plant health' certificate which is issued by the Plant Health Authority in the country it comes from. These measures exist to put a stop to bringing into and spreading in the EU serious pests and diseases of plants/plant produce (including fruit). 

Personal imports

If you wish to bring food back to the UK from another country for your own use only, you need to know what you are allowed to bring and in what amount. 

You can bring back a fair amount of any food from a country within the EU. 

If you are travelling outside the EU, you can bring back a fair amount of foods not of animal origin. Usually, you cannot bring into the UK meat, meat products, milk, and milk products for your own use. However, up to 1 Kg each of fishery products, shellfish, eggs, egg products or honey is allowed.

The general rule is ‘If in doubt, leave it out’.

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is the UK government department that issues the rules and regulations on the environment, food and rural affairs.

Read DEFRA's guidance on personal food, plant and animal imports


The Food Standards Agency is a Government department set up by an Act of Parliament in 2000 to protect the public's health in relation to food.

Directgov: Bringing food and plants into the UK