The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs is the main authority that is concerned with international trade of food in the UK, while the Food Standard Agency is the government department aiming to protect consumers in England, Wales and Northern Island. When exporting food to the UK, most products that are not from animal origins may enter any port, however, it is important to contact the port before sending the products. The food should meet the general food safety legal requirements, under Regulation 178/2002
, it must not be injurious to health and unfit for human consumption. It identifies food containing animal products as food that includes meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products and honey, while products that have no animal content contain fruit, vegetables, cereals, certain bakery products, herbs, spices, mineral water and fruit juices.
When importing trade samples of food in the UK, mainly to test marketing, quality assurances or research and development, they may enter the country freely, if they do not include animal-based products. Samples must be edible and free from contamination. The importers should make sure that their products are legal and safe before purchasing from producers or importing them in the country.
While there is no legal requirement for importers to test the samples, public analysts are available to test food samples and make sure they comply with food safety requirements by undertaking chemical analysis and/or by arranging for microbiological examination.
All UK imports of animal origin products require health certificates, while plant products that could introduce pests require a phytosanitary certificate.
In case you’re directly exporting to the UK, your company must be registered in the United Kingdom or the exporter should deal with a register exporting company or a certified custom broker.
Several steps are needed in order to export to the United Kingdom, but before you get help, you’ll need:
- Evidence of the goods you’re importing or exporting, or goods you intend to import or export, for example invoices or contracts
- A full description of the goods you import or export
- To check the goods, you intend to import are eligible if you’re using simplified declaration processes
- your Economic Operators Registration and Identification number (EORI number)
You’ll need to check with the person or business doing customs for you whether you need to provide anything else.
You’ll need to confirm in writing the terms and conditions of your representation and keep a copy of this agreement for your own records.
Apply for EORI Number:
EORI stands for “Economic Operators Registration and Identification number”. Businesses and people wishing to trade must use the EORI number as an identification number in all customs procedures when exchanging information with Customs administrations.
The EORI number acts as a means of providing security and statistics in international trade
and is used by customs authorities when exchanging information between themselves and with government departments.
You need an EORI number that starts with GB to import goods into England, Wales or Scotland. You'll need a new one if you have an EORI that does not start with GB. If you move goods to or from Northern Ireland you may need one that starts with XI. In addition, you’ll need your EORI number if you:
- Appoint someone to deal with customs for you and are ‘established’ in the country you’re importing to or exporting from
- Make customs declarations
- Use customs systems, such as the CHIEF system and the Import Control System Northern Ireland (ICS NI)
- Apply for a customs decision
For ID and GB number please check Get and EORI Number.
You can find lists
of custom agents and registered organization that works on facilitating and importing products to the United Kingdom.
In terms of guidance for traders on importing certain foodstuffs, the trade information
page provides guidance and advice on labelling, packaging, chemical safety, additives and organic products for food categories.
The imports of table sauces, which do not contain products of animal origin, should meet the same or equivalent food hygiene and compositional standards and procedures as food produced in Great Britain. Normally, these products do not require a health certificate to be imported in the country.
While they may not need a hygiene or health certificate, some foods could require trade-related licenses, and may be subject for quotas. For such information, please check the Rural Payments Agency's website.
Also, some sauces could contain flavourings, colourings or sweeteners. Some of these may not be approved in the UK. As such, you can contact the food additives team
for more information.
In addition, the UK Integrated Online Tariff
can help you identify the types of licenses you need to export your products from Lebanon to the UK.
Further, the Food Hygiene Policy
team provides answers to inquiries related to food hygiene in the UK.
In parallel, imports of certain foods under the sauces, pickles, preserves and chutney products that contain nuts, dried fruits or spices are subject to special conditions due to contamination risk by aflatoxins. Such products can only enter Great Britain through specific airports and ports that have border control posts. Also, the contaminants legislation puts a limit for the 3-monochloropropanediol (3-MCPD) in soy sauce and similar sauces and hydrolysed vegetable protein (HVP). Information on such contamination can be found on chemical contaminants page as well as the page on mycotoxins
. You can also contact the chemical contaminants team
. For additional information about pesticides and maximum residue levels, the Health and Safety Executive, Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety, provide industry guidance
on the usage of pesticide.
The Food Standards Agency provides guidance
for importing sauces containing products of animal origin. However, it is important to note that currently all food products of animal origin from Lebanon such as dairy, meat, honey, eggs among others, are not allowed to enter the UK.
Having a market entry strategy is important in order to decide if you want to export yourself, or rely on an importer in the country, and to know which licenses or registration process you might require
For the procedures, you can check the step-by-step guidelines provided by the government
Make sure that the food is safe as per the requirements of the Regulation 178/2002
Check the requirements for sweeteners, additives, colouring and additives by contacting the food additives team
Get the published information on chemical contaminants
Make sure whether you need any certificates, and if your product is subject to quotas by checking the Rural Payments Agency's website
Check the types of licenses you need to export your products from Lebanon to the UK by using the UK Integrated Online Tariff
Explore the UK Market Report for information on the trade agreement between Lebanon and the UK, as well as general legal requirements to export food products to the UK
Packaging and Labelling
In terms of packaging, food contact materials are controlled by retained UK law, which is rigorous in controlling plastic materials and articles for food.
The National 2012 regulations
identify which breaches constitute an offence, and thus incur a penalty and what constitutes a competent authority.
Food Contact Materials are articles and materials that come into contact with food during its production, processing, storage, preparation or serving, such as containers for the transportation of food, packaging materials, Kitchenware and tableware.
Specific regulation of food contact materials cover plastic monomers and additives, active/intelligence materials, recycled plastic processes, regenerated cellulose film. You can find these laws and guidance on the Food contact materials authorisation guidance
. For more information, you can contact the Food Contact Materials team
Labels must be easy to read and understand and visible.
You must show the following information:
- the name of the food
- a ‘best before’ or ‘use by’ date
- any necessary warnings
- net quantity information
- a list of ingredients (if there is more than 1)
- the country or place of origin, if required
- the lot number or use-by date
- any special storage conditions
- instructions for use or cooking, if necessary
If you’re selling food in Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland), you must also include the name and address of the UK or EU business responsible for the information on the food. If the business is not in the UK or EU, you must include the name and address of the importer.
You must put the net quantity in grams, kilograms, millilitres or litres on the label of:
- packaged food over 5g or 5ml
- packaged herbs and spices
Solid foods packed in a liquid (or an ice glaze) must show the drained net weight.
The net quantity must be close enough to the name of the food that you can see all this information at the same time. This also applies to the alcoholic strength for alcoholic drinks.
You must also show these if they apply to your product:
- a warning for drinks with an alcohol content above 1.2%
- a warning if the product contains Genetically-Modified ingredients, unless their presence is accidental and 0.9% or less
- a warning if the product has been irradiated
- the words ‘packaged in a protective atmosphere’ if the food is packaged using a packaging gas
According to the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, food compositional standards apply to products which consumers expect to be of certain quality, or foods that are at risk of being substituted by a lower quality alternative.
In terms of international standards, all entities tend to revert back to the Codex Alimentarius
, which provides international food standards, guidelines and codes of practice to ensure quality and safety of foods and agricultural products in international trade, despite being a voluntary good practice and not mandatory. In general, food standards in the UK tend to go beyond the Codex international standards.
For the making of sauces, Codex Alimentarius
for canned applesauce, fish sauce, a regional standard for chilli sauce, processed tomato concentrates, humus with tehena, red hot pepper paste, among others.
These standards can help you in producing an internationally accepted product. You can contact the Department for Environment, Food and Rural
Affairs for more information about international standards.