What food can you take in and out of the UK?

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food in suitcase

So you’ve spent a warm evening wandering around the local markets taking in the air filled with lovely smells of local produce set out across the stalls and being cooked by the street corner vendors and local cafes. Rows of charcuterie, breads, cheeses, fish and bright coloured, strangely shaped fruit and vegetables that you’ve never seen at home. Why not take some back with you? It’s cheap and you can share it with friends and family to remind you of your holiday long after you get home – great idea, right?

Well maybe.

There are two sets of rules around what food you can take in and out of the country:

Within the EU: Pretty much anything.

Outside the EU: Pretty much nothing.

The assumption is because we are in the EU we have signed up to the high standards dictated by the various policies and therefore the food should be safe and not poison us, other animals or the environment. We can bring in our new-found cheese and meat products, fill our suitcases with funny shaped fruit – if there’s room of course, don’t squash them!

Oh, and don’t forget alcohol, bring in as much as you can carry – as long as it’s for personal use.

Alternatively, when you go on holiday in Europe you can take your favourite cheddar with you if you don’t like the foreign cheese and of course don’t forget to take tea-bags because in lots of countries they don’t get it when you want a nice cuppa with milk and a spoonful of sugar!

Outside of the EU you cannot take in or out fresh meat or dairy products and there are limits on most other things. This is because of the variation of standards and regulation across different countries. There are caveats just to confuse you for example, in the case of food the EU includes Andorra, the Canary Islands, Channel Islands, Isle of Man, Liechtenstein, Norway, San Marino and Switzerland so you can bring home the best grub you can find in these countries. The rest of the world includes the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Iceland so although everything should be prohibited  you are allowed fresh meat and dairy products and milk products and potatoes although no more than 10kg per person.

I tried to think of why you might want to bring back 10kg of potatoes from a holiday in Iceland!

Conversely, although Cyprus is an EU country it doesn’t count because it is controlled by a country that isn’t in the EU! Confused? Then don’t be, there is lots of information out there and one of the best resources is the UK Governments own advice here.

The other thing to consider is if you are bringing back fresh food – is it normally kept in a fridge? If the answer is yes then do you want to risk having it in your suitcase for a 4 hour flight plus airport travelling time?

To keep you safe and stop you poisoning yourself the Government have the Food Standards Agency. Here are some of their guidelines:

“Cold food can be kept above 8°C for up to four hours. You should only do this once. If any food is left after this time, you should throw it away or keep it chilled at 8°C or below until it is used”

“Cold food… must be kept at 8°C or below. This is a legal requirement in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and recommended in Scotland. In Scotland, food must be kept in a fridge or cool ventilated place”

“Chilling food properly helps to stop harmful bacteria from growing. Some food needs to be kept chilled to keep it safe”

Just saying………………………………………..!






Posted by Graham Morley

Graham Morley

Graham is the Business Development Manager for Compare Holiday Money.


  • Avatar Derek Lawson says:

    Can you take pre-packed meat and cheese in hold luggage into Egypt from the United Kingdom?

  • Graham Morley Graham Morley says:

    Thanks for your comment Derek.
    Countries outside the EU will have their own regulation when it comes to travelling with food. The best advice is to check with your airline and/or tour operator. The other consideration is how long will these products be in your luggage between packing and getting them in to a fridge at the other end. Advice from the Food Standards Agency is any food that should be kept between 2-5 deg. should not be kept outside this temperature for more than 2 hours.

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