Food labelling and packaging for export and import
Import and export requirements for food labelling and packaging
The UK has left the EU. From 1 January 2021, certain requirements around food labelling and trade will change. Some areas of this guidance will be affected by EU Exit and may no longer apply.
For current information, read about food and drink labelling changes from 1 January 2021 and find out how to:
- export food, drink and agricultural products from 1 January 2021
- export or move live animals and animal products to the EU or Northern Ireland from 1 January 2021
- import or move animals, animal products and high-risk food and feed not of animal origin from 1 January 2021
- export or move high risk food and feed of non-animal origin to the EU or Northern Ireland from 1 January 2021
- transit animals and animal products through Great Britain
Imports from outside the EU
Traders importing food from outside the EU need to ensure that they comply with EU and Northern Ireland (NI) regulations on hygiene and safety, and labelling and food composition regulations. If you fail to comply, your shipment could be detained or destroyed, and you could incur additional costs. Where foods are pre-packed outside the EU the importer must ensure the packaging complies with EU rules on food packaging.
Food products of animal origin (POAO) can only be imported from third countries that have been approved by the EU. This includes meat and poultry, meat products, fish and shellfish, eggs, milk and other dairy products, animal fats and offal. The products must usually come from approved premises/establishments (approved for that product), be accompanied by a health certificate and comply with animal and public health conditions.
Certain POAO categories do not as yet have approved establishment EU list codes. They are:
- eggs and egg products
- snails' and frogs' legs
- rendered fats and greaves
POAO can only enter Northern Ireland through a port or airport with a Border Control Post (BCP) approved for the category of product to be imported. BCPs need to be notified of the arrival of the product before its physical arrival at the port/airport. Your products must be labelled correctly and the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point system must have been used throughout the food handling process. See food handling and safety: checklist for importers.
Accompanying documentation will be checked, the identity will be verified and a physical check will be carried out on a prescribed percentage of products. If your products fail any of these checks, they will not be allowed into Northern Ireland and may be destroyed.
Some emergency import controls are also in place for other types of food, to reduce known or emerging health risks. If these are in force, Port Health Authorities and local authorities at ports and airports of entry will usually carry out checks and sampling of imported foods. These measures may require that certain products from certain countries have to be pre-notified before arrival. accompanied by a health certificate and/or results of analysis for a particular hazard.
As with all foods arriving into Northern Ireland, you must be able to provide an audit trail for your goods.
Exporting outside the EU
If you are exporting food outside the EU and intend to make it available for sale, you can contact the country's embassy in the UK to check if there are export restrictions, or any special labelling or packaging requirements. There are restrictions on food exports to the USA. Traders must register with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and must operate through a US registered agent. The new FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is in force. Find information about US trade regulations.
RPA Helpline0845 603 7777