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Imports of herbs and spices from countries outside the European Union (EU) must meet the same standards of food hygiene and safety procedures as food produced in the EU.
You do not normally need a health certificate to import herbs and spices.
Standards for spices
UK law does not define standards for spices. However, advice from the Health Protection Agency (HAP) on ‘end product’ microbiological criteria may be helpful. The HAP is an independent body that protects the health and well being of everyone in England and Wales.
Food colourings, flavourings and sweeteners
Some herbs and spices may contain coloring’s, flavorings or sweeteners. Although these may be approved by the food authority in the country of origin, some of them may not be approved in the EU.
You will find general information about food labeling in the GOV.UK website.
For advice on the labeling of specific products, contact your local authority’s Trading Standards Department or Environmental Health Department
Food contact materials and articles, including those used for food packaging, are controlled by all-encompassing EU legislation that has been fully implemented in the UK.
This legislation is particularly thorough in its control of plastic materials and articles intended for food use.
For general enquirers on food hygiene please contact the Food Hygiene Policy Team.
Read the guidance note on the Contaminants in Food (England) Regulations 2013, which make provision for enactment and enforcement of Commission Regulations setting regulatory limits for contaminants in food (nitrate, antitoxins, metals, 3-M CPD, dioxins and Pah).
There are some other import restrictions/requirements that can apply to herbs and spices of which importers need to be aware.
A “higher-risk” product is feed or food that is either known to be, or is, an emerging risk to public health.
Further information on importing high-risk food
For a complete list of foods (not of animal origin) with current EU restrictions, you can find the information on our website.
Since 9 January 2003 the herb Kara-java, and any food containing it, is banned from entry to the UK. This is because of concerns regarding its toxic effect on the liver.
Imports of feed and food from Japan
Imports of all feed and food originating in or consigned from Japan to the EU are subject to special conditions. This is following the accident at the Fukuyama Chichi nuclear power plant in Japan in 2011. This means that imports of feed and food can only enter the UK through specific ports and airports where official controls will be carried out.F