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 and useful links


Webinars for exporters of products of animal origin, live animals, plants and plant products to the EU

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).

Useful links for products of non-animal origin:

Imports of Non Animal Origin products in the EU
CHED-Dfor the Entry into the Union of Certain Food or Feed of Non-Animal Origin

Composite food products

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.

To help to establish if your product is classed as a composite food product, DEFRA have published guideance and a decision tree.

The EU have also published a table which is helpful, as it shows what type of product is now classed as needing an EHC following the change that came into force on 21st April 2021. You’ll see that there’s a ‘new’ term – private attestation. DEFRA have published a model private attestation, which provides guidance on what to do.

Have your say…

33 thoughts on “How to export food products to the EU after Brexit on 1st Jan 2021

  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.

  11. Hello,

    With regards to health certificate, I am being advised that i need a ‘common health certificate for feed and food of none animal origin’ or CHED-D to export Indian origin chilli powder to the EU (Tariff heading 0904220011), but I can’t find any information on where to apply for these. Do you have any information on this please?


    1. Hi Gareth
      The ‘Plants’ section of this post I believe is what you’re looking for and provides you with the next step.

  12. We are being asked by a retailer to provide EHC when moving goods from EU to NI.
    Ambient stable, long life baked goods containing <50% pasteurised egg and dairy. But they have interpreted EU 2020/692 article 163 as implying the dairy component must be UHT or sterilised
    (replaces the derogation under article 6 in EU 2007/275)
    This doesn't seem to make sense!
    Does anyone know if this will also affect imports from EU into the UK? Will the UK also adopt this new legislation meaning we need EHC for everything we import or will UK legislation remain as is?

  13. Hi, as well as using commodity codes, we have been asked by some customers to supply a meursing code. For this you need information such as how much starch or glucose in the product, how much invert sugar, how much milk fat and milk proteins. Once you have this information you can plug it into HMRC ad it gives you a code. We are a wholesaler and specifications don’t hold this information typically.
    I know it is not relevant for al products.
    Is there an easy way to know from your product composition if this is required and is it a legal requirement?

    1. I’m not sure what you’re asking Edwina. You only (as far as I’m aware) need a meursing code, if there isn’t a commodity code available for your product. If you look at the commodity code section on the article, there’s a link to the tool if you hover over ‘meursing code tool’.

    2. Hello, My understanding is that Meursing codes are in addition to tariff codes for certain products :
      We are suppliers of bakery products so I found this note under our applicable tariff heading.
      “Goods of subheadings 1905 31, 1905 32, 1905 40 and 1905 90, presented in the form of an assortment, are subject to an agricultural component (EA) fixed according to the average content in milkfats, milk proteins, sucrose, isoglucose, glucose and starch of the assortment as a whole.”

  14. First things first, smashing article.

    We distribute nutritional drinks <50% milk (milk from EU authorized countries) for personal use across the EU. We meet the conditions:

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

    So we won't need an EHC? If we don't that's good news but its important our deliveries arrive and the point you mentioned two things which are concerning:

    1. 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.

    2. Plus, you need to make sure that the load is labelled in the appropriate EU language with the following:

    Does the labeling and commercial doc need to be in the official language of receiving country or will english suffice?

    The challenges presented in this article will no doubt mean delays and confusion at borders

  15. Hi

    Our products meet the requirements you’ve stipulated:

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

    But this is no longer irrelevant because:

    “It also means that products that are currently exempt from the scope of health certificates (and therefore vet checks) will now be in scope, and will require an EHC (export health certificate)”

    So we would need an EHC for a nutritional drink which contains small traces of milk and meets the above conditions?


    1. Hi Steve,
      Until we have the new requirements for April onwards, we don’t know. As soon as I have this, I’ll be sure to update the article.

      1. Thanks Kassy

        This recent draft legislation suggest that the <50% composite is now obsolete legislation. See:

        So if the item isn't listed in the Annex AND it doesn't meet your two requirements:

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

        An EHC WILL be required.

        Whilst our milk drinks were under 50% because that rule will be obsolete in April and as we are not listed in the Annex, we will need vet certs come April, where as previously these wouldn't have been required.

        I'm surprised such significant changes can be made by the EU so quickly?

  16. Hi,

    We import a composite product – pork sausages that is heat treated (streilised) in brine in glass jars from Germany, this is not a raw product. The pork is derived from EU meat only. This product is ambient stable for 2 years. Do we need to import this under ‘safe guard measures’ and do we need to have a vet certificate/inspection?

  17. Hi Kassy,

    We are looking for a bit more info about the EHC requirements for POAO – we use dairy in our confectionery products and we think based on the annex that anything with a cocoa content will be exempt but anything without cocoa will need an EHC – am I interpreting this correctly?


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