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.
Processed non-food/feed items for use as cosmetics or textiles are not covered by the organic regulations.
Any business importing organic products into Great Britain must be established in GB. They must also be registered and certified by an approved UK control body – https://www.gov.uk/guidance/organic-food-uk-approved-control-bodies . The requirement to be certified by an approved UK control body applies to both the importer and first consignee.
In addition, the importer will have a list of products they are certified to import on their licence.
Pre-notification of import
Importers of organic produce are required by GB legislation to give advance notice of the arrival of an organic import. Minimum notification periods are:
Pre-notification – documents required
Port Health will require:
Scanned copies of these documents can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org .
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 with accompanying email from the issuing body, 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)
Organic products imported into Great Britain from a third country require a GB CoI.
The blank model of the CoI for imports into Great Britain, which must be used for CoIs issued from 1 September 2023 onwards, 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. However it has been confirmed that the requirements of the UK-EU Trade and Co-Operation Agreement, Annex 14 : Organic Products must still be met. This means that any organic product imported into the EU from another third country has to be processed in the EU before it can be exported to GB. It cannot be imported into the EU and then exported to GB without processing.
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:
It is essential that Port Health can confirm the PDF COI originated from the issuing control body.
An identity check is not normally carried out unless there is any question over the link between the documentation and the consignment.
Physical checks are not normally carried out, but samples may be taken where required.
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.
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.
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.
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.