Import and export food and drink products

Import regulations in the food and drink sector


As the European Union (EU) is a Customs Union, you can buy most goods from other member countries without restrictions - although VAT and excise duty can still apply. For more information, see trading in the European Union.

If importing from outside the EU, you may have to comply with import licensing requirements and common customs tariffs applicable across the EU. See importing your goods from outside the European Union.

Importing food or drink products

Many products in the food and drink sector, imported from outside the EU, require a Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) licence. See importing CAP goods.

The import of food and drink from third countries (outside the EU) is highly regulated to ensure that health rules in place within the EU are met by imports. Areas include:

  • live animals and animal products
  • plants
  • fruit and vegetables
  • organic produce

Other controls apply to the import of food and drink. See import regulations for health and consumer protection.

Imported consignments transported in wooden packaging may also need a phytosanitary certificate for the packaging itself. 

As well as the specific requirements that apply to some products, all food imported into the UK must be safe to eat and conform to food-law requirements. Food Standards Agency guidance on food imports.

Customs import licences

Import restrictions can be product-specific or trade-specific. Goods subject to product-specific standards need to be supported by applicable certificates, product licences and documentation.

Quantitative restrictions or limitations and anti-dumping duties may also apply. See anti-dumping and countervailing duties.

For help identifying whether you require an import licence see do you need an export or import licence?

Use the Trade Tariff tool to classify goods and check which licences, duties and measures apply.

Trading some goods may be prohibited without a specific licence from the competent authority, eg Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs. It's important to know of any licensing required for goods you're importing - it's your responsibility to comply with all licensing regulations.