Importing Organic Products

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

  • Unprocessed plant products
  • Live animals or unprocessed animal products
  • Unprocessed aquaculture products and algae
  • Processed agricultural products for use as food
  • Processed agricultural products for use as feed
  • Vegetative propagating material and seeds for cultivation

Processed non-food items such as cosmetics, textiles or fertilisers are not covered by the organic regulations.

Conditions for importing

Importers of organic produce are required by GB legislation to give advance notice of the arrival of an organic import. Minimum notification periods are:

  • At least one working day for consignments arriving by container ship
  • At least six hours for consignment arriving by ferry (RoRo)

Pre-notification – documents required.

Port Health will require:

  • the organic pre-notification form,
  • the original COI (or emailed PDF – see details below) and
  • copy commercial documents (bill of lading, invoice and packing list).

Scanned copies of these documents can be emailed to .

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 (and PDF version of the COI, if applicable) 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).

All organic food and feed imported from non-EU countries must have a valid GB CoI.

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

SCPHA 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 COI 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. The Port Health endorsed COI will form part of the Control Body’s annual inspection of the importer.

If you import organic foods and feedstuffs into Great Britain you must follow GB rules.

Organic products imported from the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland to Great Britain will not require a certificate of inspection (COI) until further notice.

It has been confirmed that the Trade and Co-Operation agreement with the EU requires that any organic produce imported into the EU from third countries has to be processed before it can be exported to GB. It cannot be imported into the EU and then exported to GB without processing.

How we check

Documentary Check

All organic imports are subject to a documentary check – an assessment of the CoI is conducted to ensure that it is valid for the consignment being imported. It is intended to ensure that fraudulent activity does not take place with regard to the importation of organic goods.

All organic imports require a COI for each consignment, which must be submitted to and endorsed by the Port Health Authority prior to being released into free circulation.

COI – original or PDF?

Port Health require submission of either:

  • The original COI, or
  • An emailed PDF version of the COI provided that the COI has been endorsed by the issuing body (Box 18) prior to the consignment leaving the third country. For these a bill of lading showing the ‘shipped on board’ date will also need to be provided. The PDF COI must be emailed by the issuing control body to the destination address/GB importer. This email should then uploaded to the PHILIS DES notification or forwarded to Port Health as part of the pre-notification email.

It is essential that Port Health can confirm the PDF COI originated from the issuing control body.

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. If a PDF COI was submitted Port Health will return an endorsed PDF COI via email to the company paying the charges.

The Port Health endorsed 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 endorsed CoI is received.

Unsatisfactory Checks

Products failing to satisfy organic import conditions may be re-exported to a country outside of Great Britain or relabeled under the supervision of Trading Standards and under notice to remove all organic references, or destroyed.

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.