The advice sheets below have the latest information on food standards. If you need more advice call 01753 475111 (Regulatory Services option).
In the guide
Understand what is required of you if import feed or food from outside the UK
This guidance is for England
For the purposes of imported feed and food controls, feed and food is classed as either a product of animal origin (POAO) or feed / food of non-animal origin (FNAO). There are different legislative controls for feed and food entering the UK, depending on whether it is coming from within the European Union (EU) or from a third country (that is, a non-EU country). Personal imports are subject to separate controls, no matter where they come from.
All importers must be identified, registered or approved as feed / food business operators (FeBOs / FBOs) and as such included in official controls.
Products of animal origin (POAO)
POAO include, for example, fresh meat, meat products, meat preparations, dairy products, fishery products, shellfish, egg products, honey, snails, insects and fishmeal used in animal feed.
Imported POAO are likely to be illegal if they are not presented to a border inspection post (BIP) for official controls to be carried out and/or if they do not comply with public or animal health requirements - for example, by being contaminated with veterinary residues.
Feed / food of non-animal origin (FNAO)
FNAO includes all other products or materials not fitting into the category of POAO. Imports of certain 'higher-risk' FNAO can only enter the UK through specific ports and airports that are approved as designated points of entry (DPEs), where official controls will be carried out.
In a similar way, certain FNAO subject to safeguard measures can only enter the UK at designated points of import (DPIs). A 'higher-risk' product is feed or food that is either a known, or an emerging, risk to animal or public health.
Details of such high-risk products can be found on the Food Standards Agency (FSA) website.
Summary of import controls
Whilst the majority of feed and food that is imported into this country is perfectly legal, wholesome and safe, it is important to have effective official controls in place to ensure that consumers and businesses are protected from contaminated products, unfair trading practices and fraud.
Feed or food produced legally by one EU Member State may be freely exported to other Member States without any specific checks being carried out at the ports. In a similar way feed or food imported legally from a third country into one Member State can then be freely distributed throughout the EU without further checks. This is the principle of the EU as a customs union, allowing intra-EU trade to be free from checks at the point of entry.
POAO imported from third countries are subject to the most stringent controls. These can only be imported from approved third countries and, with some exceptions such as honey, from an approved establishment. They must be accompanied by health certificates signed by the relevant 'central competent authority' for the third country to verify that they have been produced in equivalent standards to those in the EU and can only be imported via an approved BIP where the feed or food is subjected to veterinary checks by the appropriate authorised officer. Once these checks have been completed, a 'common veterinary entry document' (CVED) is issued, which must accompany the feed or food to the first inland destination.
FNAO are not subject to the same level of import controls. However, certain 'high risk' FNAO from third countries can only be imported into the EU via DPEs or DPIs and may be required to be accompanied by health and analytical certificates. Once the feed or food has been subjected to official controls a 'common entry document' (CED) is issued, which must accompany the food to the first destination inland.
Personal imports of POAO and FNAO from third countries are subject to strict controls and imports of meat and dairy products from these countries are banned. Further details on personal imports may be found on the GOV.UK website.
Third country (non-EU) representatives
EU Regulation (EC) No 183/2005 laying down requirements for feed hygiene requires, amongst other things, that feed business establishments are registered or approved within their own territories. However, third-country animal-feed establishments that import into the EU certain additives, premixtures of additives and compound feeds containing them are required to have a representative within the EU. For example, this may be an importer of feed, based in the UK, who has secured sole selling rights for a particular feed.
Only one representative in the EU is required for each third-country establishment. It is therefore possible that the third-country establishment may have previously appointed a representative in another Member State. UK feed business operators should ascertain if this is in fact the case, and if not obtain the details necessary to fully complete the model declaration form.
More information relating to third-country animal-feed establishment representatives - including the list of third-country representatives, which is continually updated - can be found on the FSA website. Representatives should make their application to the Member State authority where they are based. In the UK this is the Food Standards Agency.
The legislative framework that covers the importation of feed and food is complex but must be understood by importers. It may best be considered in terms of the nature and origin of the product or material in question.
FEED & FOOD IMPORTED FROM WITHIN THE EU
Feed and food originating from another Member State is subject to the same legislative controls and safeguards as feed or food produced in the UK. Such feed or food should be safe, as defined in EU Regulation (EC) No 178/2002 laying down the general principles and requirements of food law, establishing the European Food Safety Authority and laying down procedures in matters of food safety. It should be labelled in accordance with EU Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers or EU Regulation (EC) No 767/2009 on the placing on the market and use of feed and should have been handled in accordance with the hygiene regulations on feed and food (see 'Key legislation' below).
FEED & FOOD IMPORTED FROM THIRD COUNTRIES: POAO
POAO may only be imported into the EU in accordance with EU Directive 97/78/EC laying down the principles governing the organisation of veterinary checks on products entering the Community from third countries. This Directive sets out the requirements for veterinary checks and the issue of CVEDs. Under EU Regulation (EC) No 882/2004 on official controls performed to ensure the verification of compliance with feed and food law, animal health and animal welfare rules the local authority or food authority is designated as the competent authority in relation to enforcement and execution under relevant legislation.
FEED & FOOD IMPORTED FROM THIRD COUNTRIES: FNAO
The import conditions relating to FNAO from third countries are provided by EU Regulation (EC) No 882/2004. This Regulation requires that the competent authority undertakes official controls on FNAO at the point of entry of the feed or food into the EU or at any stage during distribution. These official controls should include documentary, identity and, where appropriate, physical checks of the feed or food. Any suspect feed or food that is detained by the competent authority, and any feed or food that fails to meet the requirements of EU law, should be destroyed, re-dispatched, used for a non-food purpose or subjected to special treatment to render it lawful.
Particular care must be taken by food importers, in relation to their legal obligations, in terms of food that is imported but fails to meet the requirements of EU law and is subsequently diverted for use as animal feed. Food imported under such circumstances would then be "intended for use in oral animal-feeding" and therefore designated as a 'feed'; the requirements of EU Regulation (EC) No 767/2009 then apply, in particular the labelling requirements relating to placing a feed on the market.
Failure to comply with these requirements is a criminal offence. The maximum penalty is a fine and two years' imprisonment.
Further information, including advice and guidance on import and export, can be found on the Food Standards Agency website.
Last reviewed / updated: October 2018
This information is intended for guidance; only the courts can give an authoritative interpretation of the law.
The guide's 'Key legislation' links may only show the original version of the legislation, although some amending legislation is linked to separately where it is directly related to the content of a guide. Information on amendments to UK legislation can be found on each link's 'More Resources' tab; amendments to EU legislation are usually incorporated into the text.