Can I move food across countries?

There are various reasons why you might want to take food – in various quantities – from one country to another. However, customs and import laws can vary considerably from one country to another, and it’s important to have at least a basic understanding of what the legalities and restrictions are before making a potentially costly mistake. While we can’t cover every nation on the globe, here are some guidelines for the three most common destinations – EU countries, Australia and the United States.

Can I move food across countries?

The European Union

One of the upsides of the UK’s position as a European Union member nation is that food can generally be moved within the EU without any real restrictions. In practical terms this means that foodstuffs crossing borders within the EU are not subject to any customs checks so if, for example, you are moving to live or work in another European nation you can transport the contents of your store cupboards without worrying about falling foul of unexpected customs restrictions.

Australia

We could devote an entire website to the peculiarities of Australian import and customs laws. The bottom line is that Australia has a uniquely balanced natural environment and ecology, and as a result the Australian border authorities have incredibly thorough – and strictly enforced – regulations on what is allowed into the country.

Before you arrive in Australia you will be asked to fill out an Incoming Passenger Card, on which you must declare whether you are transporting plant material, animal products or certain foodstuffs. Be aware that this is a legally binding declaration, and those either failing to properly declare or deliberately attempting to bring prohibited items into the country can suffer penalties ranging from a $360 (around £180) on-the-spot fine to, in extreme cases, criminal prosecution that can lead to 10 years in prison and fines of more than $66,000 (around £33,000).

Food and other prohibited items that reach a customs checkpoint will in most cases be destroyed according to quarantine procedures. Needless to say, our advice is to avoid trying to take foodstuffs into Australia wherever possible, and certainly don’t attempt to circumvent customs by making a false declaration. This applies equally to both food carried in luggage, and anything transported by freight during an international house move.

 


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The United States of America

US Customs and Border Protection – an agency of the Department of Homeland Security – is responsible for deciding what foodstuffs are allowed to enter the United States from overseas. It is possible to bring food (for personal use) into the US in your luggage if you are entering as a traveller. However, while US customs restrictions are a lot more forgiving than those on the Australian border, certain types of foods – and foodstuffs sourced from certain countries – are still prohibited.

We suggest checking the US Customs and Border Protection website for guidance on what is and isn’t allowed. In common with entering Australia – and indeed, crossing most national borders outside the EU – you will have to declare any foodstuffs that you are bringing into the country. Failure to declare goods can result in fines of up to $10,000, which equates to just under £7,000.

Moving internationally

If you are moving house contents – potentially including food – to another country it is important to use a reputable international removals company that has sufficient experience to know what is and isn’t allowed, and that can deal with the receiving country’s import, customs and quarantine procedures on your behalf where necessary. We recommend using only removals firms who are members of the British Association of Removers (BAR). Use our online quote tool to instantly compare quotes from a number of professional international movers.

Last reviewed March 2016.

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