Importing Organic Products (Updated 28/02/21)

Please see detailed guidance for the following:

Why we have border controls

Border controls are in place to check that organic products imported into Great Britian 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.

Pre-notification – documents required.

Port Health will require the organic pre-notification form, the original COI and copy commercial documents (bill of lading, invoice and packing list). Scanned copies of these documents can be emailed to Port Health port.health@scpha.gov.uk .

The pre-notification form is available on our system called PHILIS DES.  Alternatively, you can also use a pre-notification form that can be downloaded here. When submitting a pre-notification either use the facility within PHILIS DES to upload the bill of lading, packing list and invoice or submit copies of these commercial documents with the hard copy form (if you have not already emailed them to us).

Please ensure the pre-notification form informs us of which company is responsible for the charges, and which company the signed COI should be returned to.   Without this information we cannot process the documentation and your consignment will be delayed.

Notification and endorsement of all organic consignments must be made by completing a Certificate of Inspection (CoI).

The blank model of the CoI for imports into Great Britain can be found here.

Our notes on completing the GB CoI can be found here.

The Certificate of Inspection (CoI) is issued by the control authority or the control body. The original signed and stamped certificate is submitted to Port Health (along with copies of commercial documents) for validation. The Port Health endorsed signed CoI must accompany the consignment to the consignee’s premises where it must be kept for two years.

If you import organic foods and feedstuffs into Great Britain you must follow GB rules. These include submission of the original GB Organic Certificate of Inspection (COI) to the Port Health Authority at the point of import.

However, please note if you import organic products from EU member states, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland into Great Britain, a Certificate of Inspection (COI) will not be required until 1st January 2022.

 

How we check

Documentary Check

All organic imports are subjected to a documentary check – an assessment of the original CoI is conducted to ensure that it is valid for the consignment being imported.

The original COI is required.

Port Health can carry out checks and release on copy documents; however, the original GB CoI must be submitted within 10 days of the consignment arriving.

Port Health will require confirmation that the original COI will be submitted within 10 days before we can release on copy documents.

COVID-19 easements

If specific issuing bodies/authorities are having difficulty getting signed COIs due to Covid restrictions in their country, it may be possible for Port Health to accept COIs that have been digitally signed by the issuing body/authority. In such cases Port Health would require the issuing body/authority to email directly to port.health@scpha.gov.uk with a PDF version of the COI they produced. It must be the GB version of the COI. Please note in this situation Port Health cannot accept copies of the COI forwarded to us by importers or agents.

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 Great Britain.

The completed CoI will be verified and endorsed. Port Health will return the original CoI signed and stamped to the company indicated on the pre
notification form.

The signed 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. The first consignee declaration must be completed when the Port Health signed CoI is received.

Unsatisfactory Checks

Products failing to satisfy organic import conditions may be re-exported to a country outside of Great Britain or relabelled under the supervision of Trading Standards 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.

 

Guidance

Defra have produced the following guidelines:

Further information

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

See also a list of UK organic control bodies

DEFRA has produced the following guidance documents: