- Import controls
- Personal imports of animal or plant products into the UK
- Personal exports of animal products
- What is an illegal product?
- Why do the rules exist?
- Who enforces the rules?
- What about animal products sent by post?
- What should I do if someone has sent animal products to me by post?
- What controls are there on legal imports of animal products?
- What should I do if I want to surrender any animal products at GB points of entry or I am not sure about the rules?
- If UKBA Officers seize any animal products can I get permitted quantities back?
- What happens if I don’t agree that UKBA should have seized the animal products I have brought back?
- What are the penalties for personally importing illegal animal products?
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.
Diseases like Foot and Mouth Disease and Bird Flu can be brought into the UK via animal products (particularly those containing meat or milk). Fruits and vegetables may carry pests that can infect plants and vegetables in the UK. Such diseases and pests can have a devastating effect on our farming livestock, crops and the environment.
Some products may also contain diseases, residues or contaminants that harm human/public health (e.g. from fish, honey, untreated animal hides and skins used to make products such as drums). Controlling the animal products that come into the UK is therefore essential and, in the case of commercial imports, health-checks protect public health.
All EU countries have the same import controls as the UK.
United Kingdom Border Agency (UKBA) is responsible for detecting smuggled goods from non-EU countries at Great Britain (GB) points of entry (except in areas designated as Border Inspection Posts (BIPs)), including postal imports whether at postal depots, ports or airports, and for enforcing controls under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
Department of Agriculture and Rural Development for Northern Ireland (DARDNI) has responsibility in Northern Ireland, both at BIPs and other points of entry.
The same rules apply to any products sent either to a private, named individual by post, courier service or private carrier (including those ordered online) and even if they are for yourself, bought in a shop (including at an airport), home-grown/made or vacuum packed.
Checks on mail arriving at international sorting offices are carried out by UKBA Officers looking for all contraband products. Illegal products will be seized and destroyed and you will be issued with a seizure notice by post.
If you are concerned that the products in the parcel may have been illegally sent to this country or if the products do not appear to be healthy you should notify your local Environmental Health Office as they should send an officer to seize and destroy the parcel.
The EU operates a system of strict controls on legal imports of animal products including meat. All products from non-EU countries can only be imported through designated BIPs, where they undergo veterinary checks by an official veterinary surgeon to ensure that import conditions are met. All consignments are subject to documentary and identity checks at the BIP, and to prescribed levels of physical checks according to the type of product and country of origin. Imports are only permitted from those non-EU countries and product plants that have been authorised by the EU for the importation of the product in question. Such authorisation is based on guarantees to the EU about hygiene standards.
What should I do if I want to surrender any animal products at GB points of entry or I am not sure about the rules?
It is important that you declare any products that you are bringing in from outside the EU. If you are unsure about any of the products you are bringing in, speak to a UKBA Officer in the red channel or on the red point phone. If you declare any illegal products to UKBA, they will take them away and destroy them and no further action will be taken.
No. If you are bringing in more than you are allowed, UKBA will seize the whole amount.
UKBA has an appeal procedure detailed in their Notice 12a. If UKBA is found to have wrongly seized the products then compensation for their loss is likely to be paid. The original products will have been destroyed as all perishable items are classed for immediate disposal.
Carrying animal products that are banned is illegal, and there are heavy penalties for smuggling. If you fail to declare any products that are not permitted, you could face severe delays or prosecution. and you will be liable to action for a criminal offence including prosecution.
- Am I allowed to bring into the UK animal products that I purchased at the airport?
- If my animal products are packed in such a way which makes it impossible to separate them from their packaging, how much by weight will I be allowed?
- What happens if the animal products I bring into the UK are mixed with other baggage or clothing I have packed?
- I am travelling into the UK from Canada with two friends. Am I allowed to carry 60kg (20kg each) of smoked salmon for all three of us?
- Are children allowed to bring animal products into the UK?
- What if I bring into the UK animal products produced in the EU even though I have travelled from a country outside the EU? Or animal products produced in a non-EU country where no restrictions apply, but I am travelling to the UK from a non-EU country where restrictions are imposed?
- Can I bring in animal products from other EU Member States?
- Am I allowed to bring in Christmas cakes and Christmas puddings?
- Am I allowed to bring in confectionery, chocolate, cake or nuts?
- Are there any restrictions on bringing fruits and vegetables or plants into the UK for personal use?
- Who do I contact if I want to import animal hides and skins?
The same rules apply for the country you are travelling from whether the products were bought at the airport or elsewhere.
If my animal products are packed in such a way which makes it impossible to separate them from their packaging, how much by weight will I be allowed?
The concession will be determined on the gross weight including the packaging, e.g. fish packed with ice - if the gross weight of the fish and the ice together exceeds the concession, the whole amount will be seized.
Another example is where the products are packed inside a specific and separate container, such as a box - if the gross weight including the box exceeds the concession, the whole amount will be seized.
What happens if the animal products I bring into the UK are mixed with other baggage or clothing I have packed?
UKBA will take a pragmatic approach to seizing other items mixed or packed with animal products. However, if clothing or the bag appear to be contaminated i.e. there is blood on these items, then they will be seized and destroyed. For instance, if meat has been packed with fish of less than 20kg, cross-contamination will mean that the fish will also be seized.
I am travelling into the UK from Canada with two friends. Am I allowed to carry 60kg (20kg each) of smoked salmon for all three of us?
Yes, but the smoked salmon must be with the traveller, so if three friends arrived at Customs together and one of them had 60kg of smoked salmon they would be allowed 20kg per person, even though the total amount was carried by one person.
However, if one person had 60kg of smoked salmon and said that it was for their friends who were travelling later or who had already cleared from the same flight that wouldn’t be allowed as the goods are not with the passengers.
Yes, the same rules apply to children as for adults. Unlike the allowances for alcoholic drinks brought into the UK, children are entitled to bring products into the UK providing they are permitted from that country.
What if I bring into the UK animal products produced in the EU even though I have travelled from a country outside the EU? Or animal products produced in a non-EU country where no restrictions apply, but I am travelling to the UK from a non-EU country where restrictions are imposed?
What products you can bring into the UK depends on where you are travelling from, and not where the products were produced or packaged.
If you are travelling from within the EU*, you may bring in or send by post any food products as long as they are free from diseases and are for your own consumption.
*Meat/Meat products and Milk/Dairy products from cattle, deer, goats, pigs and sheep, from the Burgas region of Bulgaria, are not currently permitted – see the ‘Latest news’ section at www.defra.gov.uk/food-farm/food/personal-imports/ for more information.
For these purposes only, Andorra, Canary Islands, Channel Islands, Isle of Man, Liechtenstein, Norway, San Marino and Switzerland are treated as EU Member States, under special agreements due to their proximity to the EU and their animal health status.
Christmas cakes and Christmas puddings (including those with nuts) are permitted from any country as long as they are for your personal consumption and/or as gifts and do not contain fresh cream or high levels of dairy products or beef suet.
Confectionery, chocolate or cakes (including Christmas cake, Simnel cake or cakes containing nuts) are permitted from any country as long as they are for your personal consumption and do not contain fresh cream or high levels of dairy products. Confectionery that contain high levels of dairy products include Burfi, Gulab Jaman, Halwah or Halva, Ras Malai, RasGullah, Ladoos, and Chum Chum. Information on importing nuts can be found on the Food Standards Agency website.
Are there any restrictions on bringing fruits and vegetables or plants into the UK for personal use?
Yes. Information can be found in the table of concessions for plants and plant produce and products. PDF (110 KB)Top
You are only allowed to bring tanned animal hides and skins (either with or without hairs/fur) from all countries in your personal luggage, although there is no specific limit on the amount you can bring. Tanning means the hardening of hides and skins using vegetable tanning agents, chromium salts or other substances such as aluminium salts, ferric salts, silicic salts, aldehydes and quinones, or other synthetic hardening agents.
What is bushmeat?
There is no precise definition of bushmeat that is universally accepted, although it is generally understood to be the meat of any wild animal hunted for food. It is not necessarily from endangered species.
International trade in bushmeat derived from animals is either banned completely or controlled by means of a permitting system. Personal imports of all meat from non-EU countries are prohibited. Penalties for illegal importation are high with up to 7 years imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine.
So are large amounts of bushmeat being imported?
There is little concrete evidence of large scale imports circumventing the controls in the UK. UKBA seizures of bushmeat (as based on owner’s description) are very low (well below 5% of all meat seized) and the nature of the seizures suggests that the meat brought in is predominantly for personal consumption rather than for commercial sale.
UKBA have carried out their own threat assessment to better inform their targeting, and channels are in place to pass intelligence from Local Authorities (via the Food Standards Agency (FSA)) to UKBA.
How much bushmeat is from endangered species?
A Defra sponsored DNA sampling study, facilitated by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) at the time, found that the vast majority of seizures recorded as ‘bushmeat’ actually came from non-endangered species such as African cane rats. The few samples that were from CITES listed species were from duikers (a type of antelope) and pangolin (a scaly anteater). No meat from species such as gorilla or chimpanzee were found.
- In 2005/06 Wildlife DNA Services (part of the University of Wales, Bangor) were funded by Defra and the International Fund for Animal Welfare to conduct a pilot project to investigate the species composition of bushmeat consignments;
- HMRC arranged for illegally imported bushmeat seizures to be made available to WDNAS, and by arranging for WDNAS officers to have ‘airside’ access to Heathrow Airport, for bushmeat sampling and collection purposes;
- The FSA (via a Local Authority) also arranged for 3 samples to be taken from wild meat bought in London.
Summary of results:
- 62 samples obtained – the great majority were found to be from ‘farmed’ species (cattle, sheep, pig, goat etc.), with some ‘wild’ non-endangered species (cane rat and wild pig);
- 4 identified as CITES listed species (duiker and pangolin) plus 1 likely;
- None of the samples purchased in London from CITES species – all cane rat;
- Majority likely to be for personal use given low weight of consignment.
A copy of the executive summary of the report is available.
What are the risks to human health from bushmeat?
Government advice to UK consumers is that illegal imported food, including meat and bushmeat, should not be eaten because it has evaded official controls designed to verify compliance with food safety standards and could therefore pose a danger to human health.
The FSA believes that the main risks to public health from illegal imported meat and bushmeat are those associated with well-known food pathogens, which will be destroyed by cooking. However, a study was commissioned to give an overview of the microbiological risks associated with illegal imports of bushmeat. The study concluded that the risk of food borne illnesses from consumption of bushmeat appeared to be very low, and that the risk of food borne illnesses from cross-contamination was also minimal.
Can I take animal products from the UK to another country?
You are strongly advised to check with the authorities of the country you want to export to, as only they can give you failsafe advice as to what constitutes an acceptable and legal import into their country. We can only provide information for imports into the UK.
Page last modified: March 24, 2011