Importing Organic Products

Please see detailed guidance for the following:

Why we have border controls

Border controls are in place to check that organic products imported into the European Union are compliant with organic production standards. 

Checks are carried out at the border by Port Health and the policy is managed by the Defra Organic Farming Branch.

Importers of consignments of organic food and feed products must submit the required documentation to Port Health for checking prior to importation.

What we check

  • live or unprocessed agricultural products
  • processed agricultural products for use as food
  • feed
  • vegetative propagating material and seeds for cultivation

The rules do not apply to plants and other plant products and other items not for consumption by humans or animals such as fabric or organic products for external application such as oils, creams or cosmetics.

Conditions for importing

Importers must notify Port Health 24 hours in advance of the intended arrival of any organic consignment. An organic imports pre notification form can be downloaded here.

Notification and endorsement of all Organic consignments must be made via by completing a TRACES NT electronic Certificate of Inspection (COI) – further information is available

The Certificate of Inspection (COI) is issued by the control authority or the control body. The signed certificate is submitted to Port Health for validation and an endorsed signed COI must accompany the consignment to the consignee’s premises where it must be kept for two years.

NB the country of clearance/point of entry must be completed to indicate Felixstowe and UK (in box 9) otherwise our staff will not be able to view the COI on TRACES NT.  Additionally, it would be helpful if the estimated arrival date is added after the vessel name in box 17.

How we check

Documentary Check

All imports are subjected to a documentary check – an assessment of the COI is conducted to ensure that it is valid. A printed signed TRACES NT e-COI is currently required.

Identity Check

An identity check is not normally carried out unless there is any question over the link between the documentation and the consignment.

Physical Check

Physical checks are not normally carried out, but samples may be taken where required.

Satisfactory checks

On satisfactory completion of the checks, consignments will be released for free circulation into the Community.  

The completed COI will be verified and endorsed on TRACES NT and original hard copy signed and returned (this will be necessary until electronic signatures are in place).

The TRACES NT system will indicate consignment verified when the COI has been endorsed by Port Health. The signed e-COI may then be used as evidence that the checks have been satisfactorily completed.

Note: There is a further stage of COI completion by the first consignee following clearance at the point of entry indicated on the TRACES NT system which is indicated by a status of first consignee declaration signed when signed off/saved.

Unsatisfactory Checks

Products failing to satisfy import conditions may be re-exported to a country outside the EEA or relabelled under Trading Standards supervision and under notice to remove all organic references.

Where the checks are found to be unsatisfactory you will be sent a legal notice specifying the reason and outlining any options available. If you do not think that this is in accordance with the law an appeal may usually be brought to a Magistrates Court. This right must be exercised within one month of the notice being served.  On receipt of a notice, recipients are advised to contact their legal advisers if they wish to appeal against the notice.

Smuggled Imports

Port Health will check manifest information and commercial documentation to ensure that checks are carried out. Inland Trading Standards Officers for the Local Authority are responsible for checks at retail sale.

What we charge for checks

Fees are payable for checking documentation and examination or sampling consignments should it prove necessary.

All fees must be paid prior to release.

Please see our schedule of charges.

Further information

Defra (organic imports) oversee organic imports into the UK: organic.imports@defra.gsi.gov.uk

For additional guidance on  TRACES NT see: Organics and TRACES NT.

See also a list of UK organic control bodies