UK implements border checks on EU fresh food products

Freight shipping containers at the U.K. port of Southampton
Freight shipping containers at the U.K. port of Southampton | Photo courtesy of Amani A/Shutterstock
4 Min

On 30 April, the U.K. introduced border checks on fresh food products entering the country from the E.U. – over four years after the country left the bloc through Brexit.

The new requirements mandate that E.U. exporters of animal and plant products, including seafood chilled and frozen meat, dairy products, berries, and some cut flowers, must present export health certifications (EHCs) to U.K. authorities upon entry. The checks also include visual inspections and temperature readings of goods, both of which the country has deemed essential to prevent diseases and pests entering its borders.

With the program still in its infancy, goods posing the highest biosecurity risk are being prioritized, though customs officials will quickly ramp up check rates and high levels of compliance, according to the U.K. government.

“It is essential that we introduce these global, risk-based checks. They are categorized based on the inherent risk the commodity poses to animal health, food safety, biosecurity, and public health, alongside the risks specific to the country of origin. Low-risk goods such as tinned salmon will not need to have health certificates or routine border checks,” U.K. Cabinet Office Minister Lucy Neville-Rolfe said. “We cannot continue with temporary measures which leave the U.K. open to threats from diseases and could do considerable damage to our livelihoods, our economy, and our farming industry.”

To cover the costs of its new controls and systems, the U.K. has introduced a common user charge for goods imported through the border inspection posts at the Port of Dover in the country’s southeast and the Eurotunnel.

Some businesses in the country fear the resulting increase in paperwork and cost-per-consignment rates imposed on E.U. exporters will impact small retailers and wholesalers in the U.K. Consumers have been warned to expect a reduced variety of delicatessen goods, less fresh produce, and higher prices.

The checks represent the first time since Brexit the U.K. has applied third-country status to E.U. businesses. For their part, U.K. businesses have had to deal with their status as third-country entities in the E.U. since 1 January 2021, when E.U. border posts implemented strict inspection regimes to ensure food safety and disease control. Since then, U.K. exporters have encountered port delays, non-tariff barriers, and a plethora of paperwork and bureaucracy that have impeded their ability to get their goods to the bloc.

Many companies, including seafood companies, small cheese makers, and brewers have either stopped exporting to the E.U. because it is too expensive and difficult or have gone out of business altogether.

According to the Resolution Foundation, a London, U.K.-based think tank, U.K. trade of overall goods had shrunk by the end of 2023 “to levels not seen since 2015.” Exports of goods have contracted by 13.2 percent and imports by 7.4 percent since 2019, according to the foundation, which is a far larger dip than any other G7 country – a forum that comprises Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the U.S.

Speaking to SeafoodSource at the 2024 Seafood Expo Global, which took place in Barcelona, Spain, from 23 to 25 April, Scottish Salmon CEO Tavish Scott said the ... 

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