The UK Government’s Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office recently released a guidance on the standards and regulatory requirements that businesses need to meet in order to import and sell goods, including foodstuffs, in the UK.

Goods imported into the UK must comply with three types of standards. The standards apply to plant seeds, food, and manufactured goods:

  1. Product marking standards
  2. Labeling standards
  3. Marketing standards.

Before a business can sell a product that has been imported to the UK, it must comply with the relevant marking standards. The UK’s CE marking standards will apply until the end of 2024. After that, businesses must comply with the UK Conformity Assessment (UKCA) marking, the new UK product marking guide. Additionally, there are marketing standards that apply to specific products like wine, poultry meat, hatching eggs and chicks, beef, and veal.

There are also five labelling standards that businesses must comply with to import and sell products in the UK, four of which relate to food:

  1. Food labeling standards on how to give customers information on food products in order to be placed on the market in the UK
  2. Legal standards and composition requirements for food products like bottled water, milk, and meat
  3. General requirements for labeling and packaging products for sale in the UK
  4. Standards and requirements for labeling products as organic or using organic production terms.

Certain products are subject to special rules requiring businesses to acquire licenses and certificates before being imported into the UK. Law requires that a country seeks approval for market access to export high-risk sanitary and phytosanitary commodities. Unless the country has been approved for such products, it will not be possible for a business to export them to Great Britain. Food-related products requiring licenses and certifications include, but are not limited to:

  • Animals and animal products
  • Plants and plant products
  • High-risk food
  • Veterinary medicines.

There also exist import controls, which are are restrictions on high-risk products to ensure any risks to human health and animal health have been mitigated. Import controls ensure sustainable production and that consumers and UK businesses are buying products that are what they claim to be.

Currently, there are import controls on:

  • Organic products
  • Plants and seeds
  • Illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing
  • Veterinary products
  • Some sanitary and phytosanitary products, including foodstuffs

There are also import restrictions on goods from North Korea and Ukraine. Emergency import control measures may be introduced when responding to a specific incident that affects standards.