What to consider when bringing food into Ireland
If you are involved in bringing food from outside the European Union (EU) into an EU country, you are part of the food chain and you are responsible for ensuring the food is safe and complies with all legal requirements. This includes individuals and groups who transport food from outside the EU via trucks, vans, cars, or any other type of transport vehicle.
Importing Food refers to the movement of food products into the European Union (EU) from countries outside the EU (often referred to as Third Countries). Foods may be imported into Ireland by food businesses as part of their business activities or by an individual or group of individuals and are subject to checks (import controls) on entry to the EU.
Where food being imported is intended only for your personal use, it is considered a ‘personal import’, i.e., will not be placed on the market. Personal imports are foods:
- that you have in your luggage and are for personal consumption or use, or
- foods sent as small consignments to someone for personal use.
Placing food on the market means “the holding of food for the purpose of sale, including offering for sale or any other form of transfer, whether free of charge or not, and the sale, distribution, and other forms of transfer themselves” (Regulation (EC) No 178/2002).
There are rules for importing foods as a personal import. Foods of animal origin from a third country are not permitted as personal imports into the EU except for a small list of items. This list includes powdered infant milk, special foods or special pet feed required for medical reasons, fishery products, or meat, milk and their products from certain countries, etc. Prior to importing food of animal origin as personal imports, check Regulation (EU) 2019/2122 to ensure you comply with the legislation.
Certain foods of non-animal origin (such as nuts, fruit, cereals, etc.) from certain countries also require checks on import. Import controls for these products are outlined in Regulation (EU) 2019/1793. Up to 5 kg of fresh products and 2 kg of other food products listed in Regulation (EU) 2019/1793 can be imported for personal use or consumption.
If the food you import is not for personal consumption or does not comply with the rules for personal imports, you must register as a food importer. More information on personal imports is available here.
Regardless of the quantities or the method of transport, if you are bringing food into Ireland from a country outside of the EU for the purposes of sale or supply (i.e., it is not for your own personal use), you are importing food and must register:
- as a food importer, and
- register as a food business for the storage, distribution, transport, manufacture, sale or supply of food, even if these activities are done in a home.
A ‘Food Business’ is any undertaking, whether for profit or not, which carries out any of the activities related to any stage of production, processing, and distribution of food. As a ‘food business operator’ it is your responsibility to ensure that you abide by the legal requirements for your food business. In particular, food importers must ensure that food transported into the EU is presented for import control checks.
Foods imported from third countries are subject to import requirements which include registering as an importer and submitting import documentation. All imports of food of non-animal origin need a customs declaration and commercial documents relevant to the consignment. Food of animal origin is subject to veterinary controls at one of Ireland’s Border Control Posts. It is also subject to specific requirements such as pre-notification of its arrival, submission of mandatory documentation and identity and physical checks on arrival at the border control post.
If goods are deemed to be non-compliant with import requirements, this may result in the goods being destroyed, re-dispatched or subjected to specialised treatment at the expense of the operator.
How do I register as a Food Business?
Registering as a food business is simple!
You have to register your food business with a competent authority before you start operating, even if you are storing, making, selling or supplying food from your home.
The competent authorities include:
- the local Environmental Health Office of the Health Service Executive (HSE)
- the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
- the Local Authority Veterinary Service
- the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority
Who you register with will depend on your type of business. If you are unsure which competent authority you should register with, you can contact the FSAI Advice Line at firstname.lastname@example.org for support.
More information about starting and registering your food business is available here.
How can I import food from outside the EU?
The first step is to notify the relevant competent authority (HSE and/or DAFM) that you intend to become a food importer. Once this has been done, you must:
1. Register for an EORI (Economic Operator Registration and Identification) number.
2. Know the classification code (CN) of your product. You will need this code when completing import documentation for your product.
3. Identify the type of product you will be importing because each food type, such as foods of animal origin, alcoholic beverages, or food contact materials etc, has different requirements. This information is available on the FSAI website.
4. Register with TRACES NT (EU online system) if you are importing relevant products.
5. Be familiar with the documentation and notification periods for food imports and identify who is responsible for submitting the documents.
If you have any questions about registering as a food business or importing food, you can contact the FSAI Advice Line at email@example.com for support. The FSAI are happy to answer queries and provide guidance.
For certain food products the person responsible for importing the consignment must register with TRACES NT (Trade Control and Expert System). This is the EU’s online management tool which notifies, certifies and monitors trade in animals, products of animal origin, certain food of non-animal origin, as well as other non-food items such as plants and plant products.