Border Controls

Imports are controlled by European regulations designed to protect public, animal, plant and environmental health.  Generally EU rules ensure that imported products which have been identified as a risk are accompanied by a guarantee that they have been sourced/ manufactured to the same standards as product produced in the EU.

At Port Health our focus is on the application of controls in respect of food, feed and items that come into contact with food for the protection of public and animal health.  Controls over smuggled goods, consumer and business goods and plants and forestry products are all applied by other agencies.

Port Health enforces import controls enforced on behalf of DEFRA and the Food Standards Agency who have responsibility for the implementation of the EU regulations. 

The import controls can be broadly split into:-
(click each heading for more information)

Public and animal health controls carried out on products of animal origin

These products, which are commonly referred to as POAOs, include red meat, game and poultry, meat products, fishery products, dairy products, egg products, honey, gelatine, petfood, fishmeal and other products of animal not intended for food or animal feed such as hides and skins, wool, feathers and game trophies Controls focus on the protection of public and animal health. Such products can come only from approved third countries, must come from approved or registered premises in those countries and in most cases must have health certification giving assurances as to the animal / public health status of each consignment. Products of animal origin can only be imported through a Border Inspection Post (BIP) approved to handle the product concerned. Felixstowe is designated as a BIP and can handle a wide range of POAOs including those that are refrigerated.

More information about importing POAOs through Felixstowe BIP can be found on the imports process pages.

Controls over high risk food and feed not of animal origin (including materials in contact with food)

As a food business operator the importer is responsible for ensuring all foodstuffs they sell (import) are safe, i.e. that the microbiological and chemical composition of the product is not harmful to health.

Port Health has a general duty to monitor all foodstuffs coming in through the port and may check any foodstuffs on a risk basis.  As well as these general food hygiene controls, certain products have been identified by the European Commission as being high risk and are subject to additional controls.  Suffolk Coastal Port Health Authority is designated to carry out these additional controls over high risk imports of food and feed*.  These products include products such as pistachios, peanuts and chilli powder.  More information can be found on the Food Standards Agency’s website

Port Health also enforces some food standards controls, designed to protect consumers, such as applying controls on genetically-modified rice to ensure that unauthorised GM products are not imported. 

Most food standards legislation is only applicable at the point of sale rather than at import such as that relating to food labelling and composition.  Problems identified at import are referred to the relevant inland local authority..

The food legislation enforced at the port also applies to materials that come into contact with food, such as packaging, utensils and crockery to ensure these do not present a risk to health from chemicals or heavy metals from the item contaminating the food.

*Suffolk County Council is the feed authority for Felixstowe port. However Suffolk Coastal Port Health Authority has an agreement with them to undertake the specific controls on designated high risk feeds.

Organic product verifications

Certain regulations must be complied with in order to import organic produce into the EU. These regulations protect consumers by ensuring that organic claims are backed up by documentary evidence. Port Health are responsible for the verification of these documents.

Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing.

In addition to public and animal health controls, imports of wild origin fish and fish products from outside the European Union are subject to rules on Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing.  Imports need to be accompanied by a validated catch certificate to prove the fish was legally sourced.  More information about IUU controls.

Plants, Plant and forestry products

Port Health are not responsible for the application of plant health controls, marketing standards or controls in respect of wood packaging. 

Plant health restrictions apply to the import of plants and plant products from outside the EU including forestry products. 

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Related Web Links

  • Food Standards Agency - Local Authority Finder
    If you are looking for advice about your food business you can find out which local authority to contact by checking on the Food Standards Agency Website
  • Plant Health - Defra
    The Plant Health Portal - find information about pests and diseases
  • Suffolk County Council - Trading Standards
    Suffolk County Council are responsible for the enforcement of product safety legislation and are the feed authority for Felixstowe and Ipswich ports. They have passed on their responsibility for the control of high risk feed to Suffolk Coastal Port Health Authority. The trading standards team can be contacted by telephone on 01473 264859, Fax: 01473 216850, Email: tradingstandards@suffolk.gov.uk, Address: Endeavour House, 8 Russell Road, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP1 2BX
  • The Forestry Commission
    The Forestry Commission is responsible for the enforcement of rules in relation to imports of wood and wood packaging material which must meet international standards to ensure that it does not present a plant health risk.