Food importers must assess and confirm safety and suitability of imported food

As a food importer, you need to make sure any food you import is fit for human consumption before you import it. Find out what it means for food to be "safe and suitable".

The food you import must be safe and suitable

Food importers must make sure that the food they are planning to import is safe and suitable, and is fit for human consumption.

  • The food must be produced, manufactured, preserved, packaged, and stored under hygienic conditions.
  • It must not contain any food safety hazards at levels that could harm consumers. Food safety hazards include biological, chemical, and physical hazards.
  • The food must not contain or have anything attached to it that would make the food unfit for its intended use and intended consumer. For example, the food must not contain any foreign matter, or material that is decomposed, diseased, filthy, or putrid.
  • It must not be adulterated.
  • It must meet applicable New Zealand standards.

To be sure the food you are importing is safe and suitable, you could check that the supplier and manufacturer operate under a safe food programme. This will depend on what is appropriate for their country.

Importers are responsible for the safety of the food they bring in to New Zealand.

Find out more

Introduction to the Food Act 2014

Check your supplier is suitable

When looking for food to import, you might consider the suitability of a supplier. To decide whether a supplier is reliable, you could ask them for:

  • a supply contract or purchase agreement that specifies the food safety measures they will follow
  • documented details of their procedures, quality assurance measures, and food safety systems
  • documented details of their manufacturing processes, demonstrating that hazards have been identified and controlled
  • third-party verification that products are manufactured to recognised standards (such as Codex standards, Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP), British Retail Consortium (BRC), or Safe Quality Food (SQF))
  • an independent audit of their premises, processes, and food safety systems
  • a consistent and good history of sampling and testing, or increased product controls such as sampling, laboratory testing, or third-party review.

Gather evidence of safety and suitability

You may be asked to prove what you did to assess the safety of your imports. You should gather information that allows you to check and confirm the food will be safe and suitable for sale in New Zealand. This could include:

  • a certificate of conformance stating that the product meets required specifications
  • evidence that the food is produced in accordance with international or domestic codes (for example, evidence that canned foods are manufactured under the relevant Codex code of practice)
  • a certificate of analysis, with testing results for the specific batch of product, done by a laboratory accredited to ISO 17025
  • a completed product information form for each product (for example, a product information form issued by the Australian Food and Grocery Council)
  • official certificate (such as an export certificate containing statements made by a foreign government or an agent of that government). 
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