This article has been updated 16th December 2020, following a challenge about the accuracy of the information. The element that was challenged was around composite products and therefore we have updated the Composite Food Product section of this article, to explain what was challenged, why and what we found out when we investigated this. For clarity, information that has been updated has been highlighted in blue. Further detail has been added to this article also, which is in green.

In this article we’re going to look at what you need to export product to the EU from 1st January 2021. We’ve previously covered Changes you need to make to your labelling by 1st Jan 2021.

Please note, this article only looks at exporting products from the UK to the EU due to Brexit. It doesn’t look at exporting products from other countries and to countries outside the EU.

The purpose of this article is to specifically understand the technical requirements of exporting product following the transition period. Although we touch on what tariffs are, this is not the main purpose of this article. As techie’s we are not specialists in the field of goods movement involving customs declarations, so please ask your logisitics, supply chain managers or agents to look into this for you.

Quick references

Guidance on importing and exporting plants and plant products

Guidance on importing and exporting live animals or animal products

Exporting or moving fish from the UK


As techie’s food exportation is a subject that we don’t normally have much involvement in. We understand it can be a little overwhelming and difficult to get your head around, so let’s go over a couple of phrases that are used frequently. Understanding these will help you with this subject.

UK trade sanctions

A ‘sanction’ is basically a rule, which approves what you can do and also, controls what you can’t do.

Sanctions are in place for all sorts of reasons, but for Brexit the ones that we’re concerned with are the trade sanctions. These set out the rules of how we are allowed to import into the UK and export out of the UK.

From 1st January 2021 the UK will be working to a new set of UK trade sanctions. What we have detailed in this article are some of the requirements of those UK trade sanctions, specifically focused on food.

Customs declaration

When product is brought into the UK or exported out of the UK it has to go through customs control procedures. This means it must be declared and given ‘clearance’ to pass through border controls. This basically means it must have the necessary paperwork to get approved to pass through customs.

For us, the approval comes in the form of an export declaration. This declaration is basically a form that you need to fill in electronically, which is normally completed via the National Export System. You can complete these declarations yourself using the National Export System, or you can appoint an agent to do it for you.

Trade tariff

A tariff is a duty (tax) that is imposed on products that are imported into the UK or exported from the UK. They differ, depending on what product is being imported or exported.

Free trade

If something is classed as free trade it means that there is no tariff for importing or exporting that product. So you can sell the product under ‘free sale’.

Export requirements

There are three main components to exporting after 1st Jan 2021, these are:

    1. An EORI number
    2. Commodity (tariff) code
    3. EU border control

Let’s go through each one.

EORI number

EORI stands for ‘Economic Operators Registration and Identification’ number.

In order to export product from the UK you’ll need an EORI number. You may already have one of these, but from 1st Jan it must begin with ‘GB’. If it doesn’t then you’ll need a apply for a new one.

As an EORI number is issued by the HMRC, you’ll need to check with your finance team if they have one setup. If they already have an EORI number, then check it begins with ‘GB’ too.

If you are going to be exporting product from Northern Ireland to the EU then you’ll also need an EORI number that beings with ‘XI’. To get an EORI number that begins with ‘XI’ you need to already have an EORI number that begins with ‘GB’. Which means, you’ll need to apply for ‘GB’ EORI number and then for a ‘XI’ number.

If you’re going to only be exporting product from Northern Ireland to the Republic of Ireland, then you won’t need an EORI number.

If you export product via a post or other delivery service, then you need to check with the delivery company if you need an EORI number.

Commodity (tariff) code

To complete the customs declaration, you need to know the commodity codes that apply to the products that you are exporting. These are also known as tariff codes because they are used to classify and apply rates of duty for that particular product. They also help to identify the documentation that would need to accompany them.

To find out what commodity code(s) you must use for your product, you can use the trade tariff commodity codes tool, just enter the name of your product in the search box or look it up using the sections (for example prepared foodstuffs). If you’re using a customs or forwarding agent to make your customs declarations, they should also be able to help you.

Not all products have a specified commodity code. If your product doesn’t, then you have to use a ‘meursing code’, which you can find using the look up meursing code tool. You don’t need to do testing to complete this, just use your nutritional composition information.

EU border control

When product reaches the EU border there are generally three methods to pass border control:

  1. Export health certificate
  2. Inspection
  3. Exemption

To export human food products into the EU, you will need a health certificate if your product is:

Health certificate for POAO and fish products

To find the certificate you need, you can use the find an export health certificate tool. Which EHC (export health certificate) you need, will depend on which country you are exporting the product to. When you find the one that fits, just select it and there will be instructions provided on what you need to do.

For fish products you also need to be an approved UK food establishment, who are listed by the EU. To become listed, follow the guidance from the FSA.


To export plant products to the EU you need to check if you need a ‘PC’ which is a ‘phytosanitary certificate’ – which is basically a health certificate specifically for plants and it means that:

  • The product has been officially inspected
  • It complies with UK law
  • Is free from pest infestations and disease (you may need to test it to prove this)

Whether you need a PC will depend on where you are sending the product. You need to check with that particular country about that particular type of plant product. To do that, use the Food and Agriculture Organization of United Nations website, pick the country where you are exporting to and there will be contact details for you to contact the right person to ask if you need a PC.

If you do need a PC then you need to organise to get your product inspected, using the eDomero portal or filling out one of the Animal and Plant Health Agency forms (please note these are not links to pages, but will automatically download in your browser).

Composite food products

10/01/2021 updated with new guidance published on 31st Dec 2020 for Export or move composite food products

This information has been updated, following a challenge on it’s accuracy. We will therefore, explain in this section what was challenged and what our investigation concluded.

The challenge

In order to try to make it easier to work out if your composite food product needed a vets check, we created a decision tree, based on article 4 and article 6 of Commission Decision of 17 April 2007 concerning lists of animals and products to be subject to controls at border inspection posts under Council Directives 91/496/EEC and 97/78/EC. Within article 4 and 6, the term ‘processed’ is used. Legislation (Regulation (EC) 852/2004) defines this as any “action that substantially alters the initial product, including heating, smoking, curing, maturing, drying, marinating, extraction, extrusion or a combination of those processes.” Therefore, we concluded that the word ‘processed’ had been included in the legislation for a reason and therefore, took from it that we had to apply the defintion of the word. And, this is where the root of the challenge sits.

Having carried out extensive further research, it’s our opinion that there is confusion about this. In some sources, the term processed, has been taken into consideration. For example, Irish Government, Decision Tree for Composite Products. And in some cases this hasn’t been taken into consideration (this seems to be the more common). For us, it seems odd that the word processing doesn’t mean anything – words tend not to be used in legislation unless they mean something.

Because we’d taken the word processing into consideration when interpreting the legislation, we stated previously that, a general rule as to whether you needed a health certificate (and therefore a vets check) for your composite product was to follow the rule of whether your product had an identification mark. For us, this would make sense. In the UK, the reason why you need a health or identification mark, is because your product is of higher risk and so, the local authority must approve it. Therefore, it follows that if you’re exporting such a product, a vet check would be required. However, if you don’t take the word ‘processed’ into consideration this isn’t the case.

There are also a number of pieces of information available which bring in a question about whether the ingredient(s) in the product which are of plant orgin, are used for flavour or characteristics, or if they are necessary for production. Please do not get caught up in this question, if you see it. You have to understand when answering this question, whether the ingredient is ‘integral’ to the product. And, we have not found anywhere yet that explains this. If you answer this question (as any normal person would) you will 9 times out of 10, come up with the wrong answer. We spent hours on this and came to the conclusion – that it just doesn’t add any value. Because ultimately, the purpose of this question is to determine if your product is composite or not. If it’s not, you have to follow a health certificate for one of the other food groups (animal origin, non-animal orgin, plants or organic foods) anyway. A lot of the government bodies are not using this question, so our advice is to follow the composite food product information below and ignore this question.

What is a composite food product?

To be classed as a composite food product, your product must contain POAO and product of animal origin. The POAO must not be raw, if it is – it’s a product of animal origin.

Do you need a health certificate?

Given the amount of confusion, unfortunately we have had to come to the following conclusion.

If your product is composite, you must use health certificate 8281 and therefore get a vets check, unless:

  • Your product is food safe at ambient temperatures, or
  • your product has undergone full heat treatment.

This does mean that a vet will be (and you will be paying them to) check product such as a frozen uncooked, pasteurised cheese pasty. Which seems ridiculous, but unforatuntely this seems to be the situation we’re in. Hopefully, with time, there will be more clarity and this will change. For now, our advice is to go with the composite health certificate and organise a vets check – as it seems to be the only way to be sure your product will pass border control. We have put together a report with examples of the conflicting pieces of information, but the problem now is – who do you give it to? Who exactly, has the final word? Even if in the UK we had clarity and one clear set of rules to work to, that doesn’t mean that the border control will accept your product, if they don’t agree. And it seems that it’s up to the individual border control as to whether they accept your product – which means you need to consider the requirements for each border control in each country. To contact the relevant border controls for their specific requirements use Designated Border Controls.

If your product is classed as a composite food product (as it’s ambient or has been fully cooked), then you don’t need a health certificate, you just need a commercial document (the normal delivery documentation that would go with the load anyway). Plus, you need to make sure that the load is labelled in the appropriate EU language with the following:

  • The nature (name and description of the product)
  • quantity and number of packages in the composite products
  • country of origin
  • manufacturer
  • ingredients

 You will also need to supply an declaration form, to prove that your product meets the exemption criteria, you can find an example of this form on Importing Products. The pdf form can be found near the bottom, just above the legislation section titled “Declaration for a composite product in compliance with Article 6 of Commission Decision 2007/275/EC”.

If you have any further details that you can share with your fellow techies, please add them to the comments below. We will continue to update this article as the subject develops, so any new insight you can add would be welcomed.

Have your say…

17 thoughts on “How to export food products to the EU after Brexit on 1st Jan 2020

  1. Very helpful, thank you!

    I think there are some additional requirements around having an EU EORI number too now…..its all fun and games

    1. Morning Laura
      Can you please give any more infomration about what you’re referring to? I haven’t seen anything about us having to have an EU EORI number in the UK…

  2. Do you have any information on what information is required to export from mainland UK to Northern Ireland? Are there any additional steps?

    Thank you

  3. Hi Kassy,

    Organic equivalency has been met and labelling guidelines have been issued but you do not make any mention of the COI requirements for Organic in this document which will require sign off by your Organic certifying body each time you export.

  4. To export some UK-caught fish and fishery products in composite products, you may need a catch certificate. This applies if you’re exporting a composite product using tariff codes 1604 and 1605 where the fish makes up more than 20% of the content. Exempt species include freshwater fish and aquaculture – check the list of exempt species .

  5. We have been told we need an EHC and certification by OV to send Pizza to ROI from UK.
    Cheese & Tomato and Pepperoni Pizza.
    Meats and cheese are from UK or EU. Only processing we do is slice pepperoni and grate cheese.
    There is not more than 50% POAO on any of the products.
    The flow diagram says we dont need vet check.
    Can you help clarify where I get info to show we don’t need vet checks?
    Many thanks

    1. Hi Sharon,
      You have touched on a huge issue within the requirements. In that I am getting conflicting information from different authorities. I am today, starting to put together a report of all these conflicts to try to get an answer.
      If you could just bear with me please that would be great!

  6. Hi Kassy,
    A few extra bits to add into the mix…
    1) Gelatine and additional requirements for separate EHCs are quite confusing around whether or not these are required.
    2) A number of hauliers and retailers are using the GEFS scheme, and this has different paperwork requirements


  7. Dear Tecnhi-k, Thank you for your articles. I would like to know more about the new rules to export animal food products from a EU country to UK. Is this information already available?
    Thank you, Teresa

  8. Hi, I have a question regarding Heat treated pallets I’m hoping someone can help with
    So it is my understanding that as of 1st Jan 2021 for any product which we supply into the EU on wooden pallets, the pallets must be heat treated to 56 degrees and are required to meet ISPM 15 standards. This is a requirement of the EU and for product being exported into the EU from third country imports ( which we will become)
    It is not ( as I currently understand it) a UK requirement for product to be imported into the UK from the EU on heat treated pallets, however I am seeing an increasing number of our UK customers stipulating that ALL product supplied into them from 1st Jan 2021 must be on heat treated pallets.
    Have I missed something? Is this going to be the case and is it enforceable? Also will we have to ensure that all UK to UK supply is also done on heat treated pallets as well?

      1. Its about the use of ‘green’ tiber to manufacture the pallets. The vast majority of pallets in use in the EU and UK are produced from wood that has been harvested and heat treated as part of the drying process. So will be compliant – CHEP etc and Euro pallets are examples

  9. It’s worth noting that it isn’t only raw products of animal origin which require EHCs, processed POAO do as well. I’m talking about products that do not qualify as composite, i.e. don’t contain any products of plant origin. So for us exporting fully cooked chicken portions, EHCs are required. However, there is no EHC for processed poultry that isn’t a composite product, so I am working on the assumption that ‘prepared’ and ‘processed’ are the same thing and believe it is Certificate 8257 for Meat Preparations. If TPTB could decide on common terminology at least it would be helpful!

  10. Hi,
    I am assuming that as the Channel islands aren’t in the EU, you don’t need to have an EU address on labels?

    1. Hi Edwina,
      Good question and one which I’ve had to look up! Apparenately the Channel Islands are not subject to UK law, as they are not part of the UK, but are self-governing. Therefore, they actually have their own laws, including food law (this I did not know!).
      Food safety law for Jersey:
      So it seems that from what I can tell (so far) it must have an address where you can be contacted, but it doesn’t specify where that address must be. So I’m taking it that UK addresses are fine.

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