In the guide
- Products of animal origin (POAO)
- Feed / food of non-animal origin (FNAO)
- Summary of import controls
- Third country (non-EU) representatives
- Legislative framework
- Further information
- Key legislation
Note: although the United Kingdom has left the European Union, certain EU laws (known as 'retained' laws) will still apply until such time as they are replaced by new UK legislation; this means that you will still see references to EU legislation in our guidance.
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 the European Union (EU) or outside it. 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 control post (BCP) 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 BCPs for 'higher risk products', where official controls will be carried out.
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.
[*'Third country' is the term used by the EU to refer to a country that is not one of its Member States.]
POAO imported from third countries are subject to the most stringent controls. They 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 UK and can only be imported via an approved BCP where the feed or food is subjected to veterinary checks by the appropriate authorised officer. Once these checks have been completed, a common health entry document (CHED) is completed, 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 UK via BCPs and may be required to be accompanied by health and analytical certificates. Once the feed or food has been subjected to official controls a CHED is completed, which must accompany the food to the first destination inland.
- plant products and plant propagation material
- products of animal origin
- live animals
A CHED is used for the prior notification of the arrival of consignments at the BCP, and to record the outcome of official controls performed and of decisions taken by the competent authorities in relation to the consignment that they accompany. The CHED should be used by the operator to obtain clearance by customs authorities once all official controls have been performed.
Personal imports of POAO and FNAO from outside the EU 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
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 (such as a UK animal feed establishment that imports feed into the EU) are required to have a representative within the EU. For example, this may be an importer of feed, based in the EU, who has secured sole selling rights for a particular feed sourced from the UK.
UK businesses can no longer act as EU representatives for non-EU businesses; if they have not done so already, UK businesses urgently need to advise the non-EU businesses they represent that they need to find a new representative that is based in a Member State or European Economic Area (EEA) country. Only one representative in the EU is required for each third-country feed establishment. It is therefore possible that the third-country establishment may have previously appointed a representative in another Member State.
Some EU Member States have specific rules on the requirements to have a representative for importing feed into the EU. Businesses should consult with the relevant authority in the EU country they want to export to for further advice on gaining recognition as their representative, and to ensure they are compliant with any national rules.
The FSA advises that UK businesses exporting to the EU assume that third-country representation is needed for all feed and check the requirements with the destination. More information relating to third-country animal-feed establishment representatives can be found on the FSA website. Representatives should make their application to the Member State authority where they are based.
The legislative framework that covers the importation of feed and food is complex but must be understood by importers and exporters. It may best be considered in terms of the nature and origin of the product or material in question.
Feed and food imported from the EU
Feed and food originating from an EU 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 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 Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers or 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 and food imported from outside the EU: POAO
POAO may only be imported in accordance with Regulation (EU) 2017/625 on official controls and other official activities performed to ensure the application of food and feed law, rules on animal health and welfare, plant health and plant protection products and the local authority or food authority is designated as the competent authority in relation to enforcement and execution under relevant legislation.
Feed and food imported from outside the EU: FNAO
The import conditions relating to FNAO from outside the EU are provided by Regulation (EC) 2017/625 and Regulation (EU) 2019/1793 on the temporary increase of official controls and emergency measures governing the entry into the Union of certain goods from certain third countries. This Regulation requires that the competent authority undertakes official controls on FNAO at the point of entry of the feed or food into the UK 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 Regulation (EC) No 767/2009 then apply, in particular the labelling requirements relating to placing a feed on the market.
Further information, including advice and guidance on import and export, can be found on the Food Standards Agency website.
Failure to comply with trading standards law can lead to enforcement action and to sanctions, which may include a fine and/or imprisonment. For more information please see 'Trading standards: powers, enforcement and penalties'.
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
Regulation (EC) No 852/2004 on the hygiene of foodstuffs
Regulation (EC) No 183/2005 laying down requirements for feed hygiene
Regulation (EC) No 767/2009 on the placing on the market and use of feed
Regulation (EC) No 1069/2009 laying down health rules as regards animal by-products and derived products not intended for human consumption (Animal by-products Regulation)
Regulation (EU) No 142/2011 implementing Regulation (EC) No 1069/2009 and Directive 97/78/EC
Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers
Regulation (EU) 2017/625 on official controls and other official activities performed to ensure the application of food and feed law, rules on animal health and welfare, plant health and plant protection products
Regulation (EU) 2019/1014 laying down detailed rules on minimum requirements for border control posts, including inspection centres, and for the format, categories and abbreviations to use for listing border control posts and control points
Regulation (EU) 2019/1793 on the temporary increase of official controls and emergency measures governing the entry into the Union of certain goods from certain third countries
Last reviewed / updated: January 2021
In this update
The United Kingdom has left the European Union and the post-Brexit transition period has ended; the content has been updated to reflect this