Steps to importing petfood

Pet food, dietary supplements for pets, and animal by-products for use in pet food, need to meet specific requirements to be imported into New Zealand. We've created a step-by-step process so you can see what's involved.

Follow the steps 

Expand All
Step 1: What you need to know

An overview of importing pet food from start to finish.

Types of pet food for import

This import process covers pet food, dietary supplements, and animal by-products for use in pet food including:

  • processed pet food in sealed packaging and containers
  • dog chews
  • processed pet food from fish material
  • frozen kangaroo and rabbit meat from Australia
  • animal by-products for further processing.

Importing related products

Processes for importing products related to petfood are set out elsewhere on this website. Follow these steps if you're importing:

To successfully import pet food and dietary supplements for pets you need to know about:

  • your product, what it contains, where it's from, who made it, and how it was made
  • the biosecurity import health standard (IHS) for your product and meeting its requirements
  • whether or not you need to apply for a permit to import
  • Agricultural Compounds and Veterinary Medicines (ACVM) Act requirements
  • packaging and labelling requirements
  • relevant fees and charges.

Post-clearance conditions may apply

Some of the pet food or animal by-products you're importing may have post-clearance restrictions applied to them. For example, spray-dried pig plasma must be processed into retorted cat food (retorting is an in-package sterilisation process).

The IHS for your product will specify whether any post-clearance conditions apply. Check your IHS carefully.

Importing pet food for later export

If you import pet food containing animal material and then intend to export it, you must ensure the product meets the requirements of the destination country.

Are you using wood packaging?

If your consignment is shipped to New Zealand on wooden pallets, or wood has been used to package any part of your consignment, you'll also need to comply with requirements for importing wood packaging.

Step 2: What you need to do

The tasks you need to complete.

Meet biosecurity requirements

Biosecurity requirements are detailed in documents called import health standards (IHS). The IHS for your product tells you what you need to do to successfully import it.

Often you can only import certain products from the countries listed or named in an IHS.

If there's no IHS for your product, you can’t import it. However, you can ask MPI to develop an IHS for the type of product.

To request a new IHS

To make a request, use a separate form for each commodity and email or post your form and any additional information to MPI.

MPI prioritises each request for a new IHS, and it may take several years to finalise.

Apply for a permit, if needed

For most products an import permit isn't required if it meets the requirements specified in the IHS. If your product doesn't meet IHS requirements (for example, if it's not cooked to the time-temperature conditions listed in the IHS), ask for advice by sending an email to

If you need a permit to import your ingredients, complete an application:

Meet ACVM requirements

Pet foods and dietary supplements for pets are classed as oral nutritional compounds (ONCs) under the Agricultural Compounds and Veterinary Medicines (ACVM) Act 1997. Many ACVM products have to be registered.

Normally, pet foods and dietary supplements are authorised under the ACVM Act by an 'exemption under regulations'. This allows you to import, manufacture, sell, or use the product without registration, if you:

  • comply with the conditions of the exemption
  • don't make claims that the product prevents or treats disease.

Exemption conditions are outlined in the ACVM (Exemptions and Prohibited Substances) Regulations 2011 (entry 25 in Schedule 2).

Confirm your product is fit for purpose and safe

You must comply with the requirements in the ACVM (Exemptions and Prohibited Substances) Regulations 2011. For example, make sure your product is 'fit for purpose' and all the ingredients are safe.

If you alter the product or its labelling, you will be classed as a manufacturer under the law and subject to the minimum manufacturing requirements.

Request a class determination, if needed

You may need to get a class determination letter from MPI confirming that your product is exempt from registration. A fee applies, and you'll need to give the letter to MPI border staff when your goods arrive. This is only needed if the product isn't obviously exempt, for example, if a label suggests the product has a therapeutic effect.

Ask MPI if you're unsure

If you're uncertain about your pet food's status, you can ask MPI to determine this for you. Fees apply for MPI's 'class determination' service.

Download the form to request a class determination [DOCX, 341 KB]

Get your product registered, if it's not exempt

Products that don't meet the criteria for exemption usually must be registered with ACVM before they're imported. Note, registration may take several months.

Find out how to get your product registered

If you have any questions, email

Prepare your documentation

Your consignments must be accompanied by the documents listed in the IHS. The documentation may be in multiple languages, as long as English is one of them.

MPI will assess your documents when your consignment arrives in New Zealand.

Step 3: Getting your import documents

How you know you've met MPI requirements.

Your pet food, dietary supplements, and animal by-products will be cleared for entry into New Zealand when you have:

  • completed all of the steps required by the import health standard (IHS) for your product
  • included the zoosanitary certificates (if required) and supporting documentation from the exporting country
  • received a permit, if required
  • received a class determination letter, if needed
  • had your products inspected and given clearance by an MPI quarantine inspector.

If your product doesn't comply on arrival

If your pet food, dietary supplements, or animal by-products don't meet the IHS and ACVM requirements, they will be held at the port of arrival. If there is any doubt whether your goods are authorised under the ACVM Act, they won't be cleared.

Following assessment, an MPI inspector will advise you to either:

  • treat the product
  • reship the product to another destination
  • destroy the product
  • ask for the product to be held until you can confirm it's authorised.

You are liable for any costs associated with non-compliance.

If you need to confirm your pet food's ACVM status, email

Export goods returning to New Zealand

If you are an exporter, you must notify MPI if your export goods are being returned to New Zealand – for example, if an importing country rejects your goods.

You must contact MPI – within 24 hours – if your product:

  • is not fit or is no longer fit for its intended purpose
  • is refused entry by the destination country's government
  • doesn't meet or no longer meets the requirements of the Animal Products Act 1999
  • doesn't have or no longer has the required official assurance (export certificate).

You can either use the export non-conformance (ENC) report to alert MPI, or use your own form – as long as your notification contains all the necessary information.

If you have any questions about non-conformance, email

Who to contact

If you have questions about:

Last reviewed: