Importing Food: Organic and GM Foods

Food-specific regulations apply to some products when importing food into the United Kingdom. This section also explains the general rules to import organic produce and GM foods.

Food Safety Regulations as a Distributor

As a general rule, there are no restrictions on the importation of most food and drink products from the European Union (EU) countries.

But, some regulations apply for foods and drinks imported from countries outside the EU. In cases such as these, the extra requirements apply to:

  • Additives and labelling
  • Health certificates
  • Import licences

Note: The Food Standards Agency lists the rules and regulations for importing food for human consumption into the United Kingdom.

Importing Organic Produce

There are several different ways to import organic food into the United Kingdom. The method you should use will depend on which country you intend to import it from.

Imports from the European Union

Providing the supplier is already registered with an EU organic certification body you will be able to import organic produce from the EU.

  • Download the file titled ‘List of bodies or public authorities in charge of inspection provided for in article 15 of regulation (EEC) No 2092/91’

An organic certification body will be an independent organisation. The standards of its members meet or exceed government regulations.

Defra Helpline
Telephone: 08459 335 577
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What if you are importing food or drink from a country not covered by equivalence agreements? In this case, you must:

  • Be registered with one of the EU Organic Certification Bodies.
  • Gain organic import authorisation from Defra before importing.
  • Have a Certificate of Inspection for the particular food that you want to import into the United Kingdom.

Imports from Outside the European Union

This is the list of countries that have ‘equivalence agreements’ with the United Kingdom. You would be able to import certain types of organic produce from these countries because they have no import restrictions.

  • Argentina
  • Australia
  • Costa Rica
  • India
  • Israel
  • Japan
  • New Zealand
  • Switzerland

Note: The equivalence agreements will not cover all products. Contact the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs helpline for further information.

Importing Genetically Modified Foods

GM foods are not grown as a commercial capacity in the United Kingdom. As a rule, you can import certain GM food varieties, such as:

  • Cotton-seed oil
  • Maize
  • Oilseed rape
  • Soybean
  • Sugar beet

You can search the European Commission website for authorised GM foods. The Food Standards Agency website has detailed guidance on genetically modified foods and labelling requirements.

Food Import Controls

The FSA considers certain foodstuffs as high risk and harmful for public health. In some cases, they may cause illness. Thus, you may need to reduce the risk when importing these goods. In most cases, you need certificates and must follow specific rules and regulations.

Foods considered harmful to humans can change on a regular basis. You must check the current import controls provided by the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

Food Safety Regulations as a Distributor in United Kingdom