Importing and exporting food

When is it illegal?

Food imported into Europe from other countries is strictly controlled. Controls are particularly strict for any animal based food - meat, fish, milk, eggs or food which contains any of these.

The outbreak of foot and mouth disease in cattle in 2001 may have been started by illegally imported food – food brought into the country undeclared and without the proper checks.

We recommend you follow the points below but cannot guarantee that you will always avoid illegal food – sometimes it is made to look like legal food.

East Staffordshire Borough Council’s Environmental Health Officers look for and will deal with any illegal food. Such food will be taken from its owners voluntarily or using legal powers, and owners may have to pay for any legal costs and costs of disposal of food and could face legal action.

What should I look for when buying imported food?

When you are buying animal based food look carefully at the packaging. Labels should state:

  • the name of the food in English (in the case of fish in Latin as well as English)
  • the country of origin
  • the number of the factory in which it was produced (the factory number generally has EC or EEC or CE or EU or UE before it or sometimes the first letter of the country of origin)

Try to buy food which is ready for you to sell – food you do not have to divide or repack and which has labels with the three things above on each item.

Ask to see a veterinary certificate for each animal based food (meat, fish, milk, eggs food which contains any of these) you buy from an importer. If you buy from a person who is not the importer they will not have these certificates.

What do I need to do when selling imported food?

Keep all labels on outer packaging and all invoices, receipts, delivery notes and other documents at least as long as you have the food. You may need these to be able to prove the food is legal. Avoid buying food without labels on each item. Put a label on each item with the three things from the outer label if you do buy unmarked items.

How do I get more information?

If you suspect that some food that you have for sale or have seen for sale elsewhere may be illegally imported please contact us for further advice.

Exporting Food

If you have a food business and wish to export your food products, you may be required to have a food export health certificate by the country of destination.

How to apply for an export certificate

The embassy or consulate of the country of destination will supply you with the details and format required for the certificate.

You must then contact the Commercial Team with details of this format and information using the form

You will not be provided with an export certificate if you have not already registered your food business the Food Safety Team.

Your food business receives inspections according to your risk rating. These inspections will verify whether food is produced in compliance with relevant food legislation in the UK. Additional information and checks may need to be made, depending on the required wording of the certificate.

Officers signing export certificates are fully qualified Environmental Health Officers approved by the Head of Environmental Health Service.

The current charge for the standard export certificate is £67.67.