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Personal food imports

Controls are in place to reduce the risk of contaminated food (in particular meat and dairy products) and plants being brought into the UK and putting people, animals and agriculture at risk of disease.

The risk can also be economic, the Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) outbreak in 2001, possibly originating from meat illegally imported into the UK or via catering waste from ships or airlines, is estimated to have cost £3 billion relating to agriculture and the food chain.

Don’t bring me back!

People travelling outside the EU can check what food they can, and can’t, bring back to the UK using the food checker at:

For personal imports specifically from the following regions/countries – Africa, Bangladesh, Caribbean, China or Hong Kong, India, Middle East, Pakistan, Turkey and other destinations, go to:

You can also search to find out what food you can bring into the UK using the Personal Import Rules database

Key facts and figures

Please see Annex 1 (Statistics on imports of illegal products) in the Annual Review of Controls on Imports of Animal Products: April 2009 – March 2010 (PDF 1.3 MB)

The number of seizures of illegal imports of animal products in 2009/10 totaled 21,267, approximately a 3% increase compared with 2008/09, largely through UK Border Agency (UKBA) refocusing deployments to target the high risk routes for illegal meat and dairy products carried by incoming travellers more effectively. Seizures of meat and dairy products made by UKBA during the year have increased by 14% and 45% respectively.

The EU rules covering personal imports of animal products into the European Union (EU) were revised from 1 May 2009. The personal concession amounts for fish increased from 1kg (from approved countries) to 20kg from any non-EU country, and for other animal products including honey from 1kg (from approved countries) to 2kg from any non-EU country. Historically the vast amount of seizures of these products fall within what are now concessionary limits and are therefore allowed. We have therefore seen the expected decrease in seizures of fish (83%) and honey (51%).

The current situation and background

When travelling outside the EU, there are strict rules about bringing food products, plants and plant products back into the UK for your own personal consumption or use.

Personal imports of meat and dairy products are banned from most countries outside the EU. Certain plants and potatoes may be either restricted or prohibited from most countries outside the EU. Restrictions also apply to other food products, such as fish, shellfish, eggs and egg products, honey and certain fruits and vegetables. Below is a quick summary:

  • Banned – meat/meat products, milk/dairy products and potatoes
  • 2kg total weight combined per person – bivalves (live), egg products, eggs and honey
  • 20kg total weight combined per person or the weight of one fish, whichever weight is the highest (fish must be fresh and gutted or processed - ie cooked, cured, dried or smoked) – bivalves (dead) and fish/fishery products
  • 2kg total weight combined per person – certain fruits and vegetables

For more information:

The rules apply to any products carried in your personal luggage or sent by post (including those ordered online) and even if they’re for yourself, bought in a shop (including at an airport), home-grown/made or vacuum packed.

All EU countries have the same import controls as the UK.

UKBA is responsible for anti-smuggling controls at the GB border on imports of animal products from outside the EU. This includes checks on passengers’ baggage, post and freight. Department of Agriculture and Rural Development for Northern Ireland (DARDNI) is responsible for controls in NI.

UKBA delivers a flexible, risk based enforcement strategy including information from Defra on entry routes that pose the greatest threat of introducing animal disease, targeting by country of origin, specific intelligence and results from operational checks.

All operational frontline UKBA staff are employed as multifunctional anti-smuggling staff with a responsibility to tackle a range of risks at the border, including dealing with illegal imports of animal products. They are supported by the use of detector dogs specifically trained to detect animal products.

Illegal products will be seized and destroyed by UKBA Officers, which means you could face delays and risk facing prosecution. An illegal product is one that is either banned or has been brought back in an amount that exceeds any weight or quantity limits that apply.

There continues to be a joined-up approach across government departments (Defra, UKBA and the Food Standards Agency (FSA)) on the overall GB communications strategy to help raise travellers’ awareness of the rules on personal imports of animal products.

Relevant legislation and regulations

Commission Regulation (EC) No 206/2009 of 5 March 2009 on the introduction into the Community of personal consignments of products of animal origin and amending Regulation (EC) No 136/2004 (and repealing Regulation (EC) No 745/2004).  This is transposed into UK law by:  The Products of Animal Origin (Third Country Imports) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2009.

Publications

Page last modified: 9 March 2011