Working with the Port Health Authorities

Role and responsibilities of port health authorities


Checks on food at the point of import are in place throughout Europe to control the risks to human and animal health. Many ports and airports in the UK have specialist facilities that deal with high-risk food imports such as food of animal origin, meat and fish products, as well as other high-risk foods such as peanuts.

Local authorities (including port health authorities) enforce controls on UK food imports.

What are the functions of port health authorities?

Port health authorities carry out checks on food and feed consignments in order to:

  • ensure that only products that are safe to eat enter the food chain
  • safeguard animal and public health
  • check compliance with European Union (EU) rules and international trading standards

Port health authorities are responsible for monitoring all food imports but will not physically check all food imports. It's your responsibility to ensure that your products are safe to eat.

Although detailed import checks may be carried out on any food products from non-EU countries ('third countries'), the actual checks carried out are determined on a risk basis. For products that have been declared as high risk at an EU/UK level, special health controls are in place, and checks must be carried out at import stage. Port health authorities must be notified in advance of the arrival of your goods.

Read more about the types of checks carried out by port health authorities and the information that they require.

What products are subject to special checks?

One of the groups of products that are subject to special checks are products of animal origin (POAO). Checks on these products are referred to as veterinary checks and are carried out to protect both public and animal health. POAO include products such as:

  • meat
  • dairy products
  • fish
  • honey
  • gelatine
  • hay and straw

There are a number of products which have been found to present a particular risk to public health. Checks are carried out on food not of animal origin (FNAO). These include, but are not limited to:

  • peanuts
  • spices
  • palm oil
  • figs
  • pistachios and other nuts

Some of these products may be subject to special controls or may be banned altogether. You can find a list of FNAO subject to special controls.

Certain other feed and food of non-animal origin from named certain third countries are subject to increased controls. Such products can only enter the UK through specific ports and airports, approved as designated points of entry (DPE) and the port health authority at that DPE needs to be notified at least one day in advance of import.

Find a full list of DPEs.

The port health authorities also carry out checks on imports of organic produce. Importers can register with the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) to provide advance notice of the arrival of their goods.

There are also controls on imports of plants and plant produce, including:

  • certain fruit
  • potatoes
  • vegetables
  • bulbs

The Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate is responsible for implementing controls. They require all importers of controlled health plant goods to register and provide advance notice of at least four working hours if brought in by air and in all other cases (including ship) at least three working days. If you do not pre-notify your consignment, it will not be Customs cleared.