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Import of Organic Products

Why we have Import Controls

Port Health undertake checks at the border on organic products to ensure they comply with organic production standards. Importers are required to supply the required documentation prior to inspection. This is to ensure that organic products imported into GB have been certified by control bodies that are recognised to have equivalent production and inspection standards.

DEFRA is the competent authority in Great Britain (GB) and the organics policy is managed by the DEFRA Organic Farming Branch.

Growers, processors, and importers who sell food or feed as organic must be registered with an approved organic control body.

The UK approved control bodies are:


Certificate of Inspection

A Certificate of Inspection (CoI) needs to be endorsed before organic produce can be released into free circulation.  It is a legal requirement under UK legislation for importers of organic produce to give advance notice in writing of the arrival of a consignment as well as provide a copy of the original Certificate of Inspection. In essence this means that you will need to submit both the pre-notification and certificate to us no later than 6 working hours before the arrival of the goods (there is a special exemption for Ro-Ro and airfreight as opposed to the 24 hours pre-notification required for seaports). 

Organic consignments that have not been pre-notified using the procedure detailed below will not have their Certificates of Inspection endorsed by Dover Port Health Authority. 

The Organic Products Regulations 2009 makes it an offence to contravene the regulation relating to the advanced notification of organic consignments and such contraventions shall be reported to the appropriate Trading Standards department and to the DEFRA Organic Farming Branch. 

At the end of the transition period (31 December 2020), Great Britain lost access to TRACES NT for the purpose of importing organic food and feed from third countries.  An interim paper-based system is in place which requires consignments of organic produce to be accompanied with a GB Certificate of Inspection.

Links to the new GB certificate templates and guidance documents can be found below:

The most significant changes to importing organic produce relate to: 

  • Box 2 on the CoI: this shows the organics regulations. The explanatory notes explain which box should be ticked depending on whether the third country is equivalent to GB or if they meet EU regulations.

Consignments leaving third countries before the end of the transition period will be accepted as long as they have an EU endorsed CoI on TRACES NT. Importers should notify ports that these consignments are arriving to avoid delays. 

An electronic system is being developed to replace this interim system. 

Procedure for Pre-notification and Endorsement of the Certificate of Inspection

If you are an importer and/or an agent handling an organic import, which has not been endorsed by a Port Health Authority, you must: 

  • Pre-notify Dover Port Health Authority at least 6 working hours (Monday-Friday 09.00-17:00 hours)  before the goods arrive by completing the Dover Port Health Authority online notification form. For further guidance on how to register/submit a pre-notification please refer to the PHILIS Pre-notification page.

  • Please be advised that the consignment should not leave the jurisdiction of Dover until the COI has been endorsed by Dover Port Health Authority.
  • Attach a copy of both sides of the original Organic Certificate of inspection that has been signed and stamped by the issuing body and attach all supporting documents to the pre-notification or email these to porthealth@dover.gov.uk at least 6 working hours in advance of its arrival. 

  • Dover Port Health Authority will only conduct the documentary verification once in receipt of the above documentation. 

  • If Dover Port Health Authority are satisfied that the Certificate of Inspection is complete, they willendorse the copy Certificate of Inspection and e-mail it back to the agent within 6 working hours (Monday-Friday 09.00-17:00 hours).

Important points to Remember

If Dover Port Health Authority are not correctly notified as outlined in the procedure above, the Certificate of Inspection will not be endorsed and the forwarding inland local authority, the DEFRA Organic Farming Branch and the relevant organic control body will be notified.

Products which fail checks may be re-exported to a country outside the EU or relabelled under Trading Standards supervision where all references to the term ‘organic’ will have to be removed. 

Importing Organic Food from the EU, EEA and Switzerland

Import of organic products from the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland into Great Britain, a certificate of inspection will not be required until further notice.

Additional Controls 

There are additional controls on certain organic products origination from China, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Russian Federation, Turkey, and Ukraine.

Importers are responsible for ensuring any product they want to import into GB adheres to these guidelines in compliance with Retained Regulation (EC) No 834/2007.

Importers should notify the receiving Border Control Point/Port Health Authority in line with the guidance provided for the GB Organic Import System and provide a valid Certificate of Inspection (COI) with each consignment.

Consignments originating from one of these six countries arriving at the GB border from another third country shall also be subject to these guidelines.

Please refer to table below to see CN codes affected.

organics additional controls

Dover Port Health will contact you to tell you if your consignment is subject to sampling upon arrival at Dover and give instructions on the procedure to follow.

These checks are conducted at Dover Cargo Terminal by Port Health Officers.

In most instances, if your consignment has been selected for sampling, the remainder of the food product(s) being sampled must be detained in Dover until results are returned from the laboratory. The vehicle, driver and any other food or non-food products not being sampled (or otherwise controlled) do not have to stay at Dover but the importer may prefer that they do, depending on the anticipated turnaround time of the sample results and other commercial interests.

If your consignment fails laboratory testing, please see our guidance regarding Retesting of Failed Laboratory sample.

Fees and Charges

Fees are payable for checking documentation and examination or sampling consignments should it prove necessary.

Our current fees and charges can be found here

Please email porthealth@dover.gov.uk to set up a payment account prior to the arrival of an Import.

Port Health Contact