Steps to importing

To import meat (including beef, lamb, game) and meat products and ingredients you must either be registered as a food importer with MPI, or use a registered food importer. There are also other standards and requirements. We've created a step-by-step process to explain what's involved.


Follow the steps

Step1

What you need to know

An overview of importing meat from start to finish.

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Types of product included in this import process

This import process is for partially or fully processed beef, lamb, and game meats and meat products for human consumption.

Related import processes

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


What you need to know

To import meat and meat products (including animal by-products) successfully, you need to know about:

Biosecurity requirements
  • ensuring your product is covered by an import health standard (IHS)
  • complying with the requirements of the IHS
  • getting a permit to import (biosecurity permit), if needed
  • arranging a zoosanitary certificate and manufacturers' declarations, if needed
New Zealand Customs Service (NZ Customs) requirements
  • product prohibitions and restrictions
  • tariffs and permits
  • using a customs broker
Food Act requirements
  • food importer registration
  • general requirements of registered importers – sourcing and keeping food that's safe and suitable, records, and recalls
  • the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code, including labelling, composition and restricted foods
  • foods classed as "high regulatory interest" and "increased regulatory interest" (these will require food safety clearance)
  • how to get food safety clearance
  • fees and charges that apply for services provided by MPI and other agencies.

Guides to help you

Additional requirements

Organic food, irradiated food, genetically modified food, and supplemented foods have additional requirements besides the Food Act. Learn more:

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 the requirements for importing wood packaging.

Export goods returning to New Zealand

If you have New Zealand-origin meat products or by-products returning to New Zealand – for example, a consignment that has been rejected by an importing country – you need to meet the requirements of the import health standard (IHS) for returning meat products.

Exporters of meat products or by-products are legally obliged to notify MPI if their export goods are returning to New Zealand and will be re-exported. You can use the export non-conformance report to do this.

Step2

What you need to do

The tasks you need to complete.

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Meet biosecurity requirements

You'll need to understand and comply with the biosecurity requirements for your product.

Find the import health standard (IHS) for your product

Biosecurity requirements are detailed in documents called import health standards. The import health standard (IHS) for your product will tell you what you need to do to successfully import it, including getting manufacturers' declarations and zoosanitary certificates when required. You can often only import certain products from the countries listed or named in an IHS.

Products that meet all of the requirements specified in the IHS are eligible for biosecurity clearance. If your product doesn't meet IHS requirements, you may have to:

  • arrange and pay for quarantine of your goods while MPI assesses your application
  • reship your goods at your cost
  • pay for your consignment to be destroyed.

If you have any questions or need to apply for a biosecurity permit, email animal.imports@mpi.govt.nz.

If your import doesn't meet all IHS requirements

If your import doesn't meet all of the IHS requirements (for example, if the item has been tested using a different method from the one specified in the IHS), you can ask MPI about assessing your import under equivalent measures. This is known as 'equivalence'.

You'll need to supply information to show how the risks managed by the IHS are managed to an equivalent level for your product. 

You'll also need to provide MPI with supporting information, as listed in each IHS. If MPI grants equivalence for your item, it must be recorded on a permit.

To ask about equivalence and getting a permit, email animal.imports@mpi.govt.nz. 

When there is no IHS

If there's no IHS for the meat or products you want to import, you can't bring them to New Zealand. However, you can ask MPI to consider developing a new IHS for your product.

Meet New Zealand Customs Service requirements

Check with the New Zealand Customs Service (NZ Customs) whether:

  • you can import the product without restriction
  • the product will be subject to duties or tariffs
  • a NZ Customs permit is needed (such as for health products).

Visit the NZ Customs website to:

Consider using a customs broker

A customs broker will help you get import entry clearance. Some services provided by NZ Customs can only be accessed by registered customs brokers.

Many freight and transport companies employ their own brokers but if you need help finding one, contact the Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders Federation.


Meet Food Act requirements

Registered food importers

All food coming into New Zealand must be imported by a registered food importer. If you want to import food, you can:

  • use a registered food importer, such as an agent
  • register as a food importer (available to New Zealand residents only).
Becoming a registered food importer

You can request to be a food importer when completing your New Zealand Customs Service (Customs) client registration application. Tick 'Yes' when asked if you wish to be a food importer.

When you have completed your form you can:

If you need help, phone NZ Customs on 0800 42 87 86.

Transition from listed food importer to registered food importer

If you were a listed food importer with MPI before 1 March 2016, you are considered to be a registered food importer until at least 1 July 2016. You'll need to re-apply after 1 July 2016 to continue to be a registered food importer. To find out when you need to register by:
  • Check your Letter of Listing to find out what day and month you became a listed food importer. It doesn't matter what year.
  • Find the corresponding day and month between 1 July 2016 and 30 June 2017.
That is the date by which you must register as a food importer. If you can't find out the day and month you became a listed food importer, email approvals@mpi.co.nz.

Comply with regulations and standards

All food businesses must comply with the Food Act 2014, Food Regulations 2015 and the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code. For example, food sold in retail shops must have labels in English, with a New Zealand distributor's name and address.

You must also comply with regulations about sourcing foods that are safe and suitable, storing and transporting those foods, and keeping records.

Find out more

Make a non-beef declaration, if relevant

If you're importing a product that could be thought to contain beef but it doesn't – or it contains less than 5% – you can make a non-beef declaration on your import entry form with Customs. This will help you avoid unnecessary food safety clearance requirements.

A non-beef declaration can be useful for meat products such as beef-flavoured noodles.

Read Appendix 1 of Importing Food into New Zealand for a list of foods that can carry a non-beef declaration.

Check if your product requires food safety clearance

MPI must check the safety of foods we class "of regulatory interest" before they can be imported and sold. These are types of foods that have made people sick in the past, or may make people sick. Customs or your customs broker will tell you if a food safety clearance is required.

Meat products of regulatory interest
  • Bovine meat and products containing more than 5% bovine meat
  • Fermented meat products, meat paste and pâté

If, after checking, they're shown to be safe, you'll be given a food safety clearance and the food can be imported.

Note that bovine meat and products containing more than 5% bovine meat can only be imported from specified countries and must come with an official certificate. Products that don’t meet these requirements will be prohibited. Australian meat has slightly different requirements.

Meat from Australia

Bovine meat and products containing bovine meat that are coming from Australia must either be:

  • accompanied by a manufacturer's declaration that the meat is of Australian or New Zealand origin
  • imported by a registered food importer with a NZ Importer Assurance.

All other products – including non-bovine fermented meat products, meat paste and pâté – can be imported without a food safety clearance.

Learn more about foods of regulatory interest in the Importing Food Notice [PDF, 249 KB]

If your meat products do not need food safety clearance, go to Step 3 – Getting your import documents.

Getting food safety clearance

If you're importing meat that requires food safety clearance, you may be asked to demonstrate its safety one of 4 ways:

  1. NZ Importer Assurance: A registered food importer that's verified by MPI can be issued with a NZ Importer Assurance (previously known as a Multiple Release Permit).
  2. Manufacturer's declaration: Bovine meat and products containing bovine meat that are imported from Australia must be accompanied by a manufacturer's declaration that the meat is of Australian or New Zealand origin.
  3. Official certificate: For some countries, MPI will accept official certificates (from the appropriate government agency) as assurance the food is safe.
  4. Sampling and testing: In some cases, food will have to be sampled and tested. MPI will tell you if this is required.

Learn more about official certificates in Importing Food into New Zealand. [PDF, 201 KB]

How to apply

You can request food safety clearance using the Trade Single Window or by filling out a food safety clearance application form.

Trade single window

Follow the instructions on the Trade Single Window (TSW) website. You'll need to log in using the RealMe login service, and then register as a TSW user.

Food Safety Clearance Application

If you don't use TSW, download and complete an application form. Follow the instructions for guidance.

When complete, email the form to imported.food@mpi.govt.nz.

Your application should include:

  • an invoice for the consignment
  • the bill of lading or airway bill.

If the food being imported requires an official certificate or a manufacturer's declaration, you should also include that with your application.

When inspection, sampling or testing is required

MPI will tell you if the food you're importing needs to be inspected, sampled or tested. If that happens, MPI will sample the product and send samples to your choice of MPI-approved laboratory. You'll need to pay the sampling, transport and testing costs – and share the test results with MPI.

Find out more

MPI's Central Clearing House can also answer questions:

Step3

Getting your import documentation

How you know you've met MPI requirements.

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Most imported meat and meat products need biosecurity clearance, and some need a biosecurity import permit. Some may also require a food safety clearance.

Biosecurity clearance

If a biosecurity inspector is satisfied that your products comply with the import health standard (IHS), clearance will be issued soon after your goods arrive.

If your products do not comply with an IHS, your goods may not be cleared. However, you may be given the chance to provide further documentation for your products.

Food safety clearance

A Food Safety Officer (FSO) will assess your application against the requirements of the Food Act. You'll be notified of the outcome through the Trade Single Window system or directly by MPI.

Clearance may be given 'without direction,' which means you're free to move and sell the product within New Zealand. If the food requires inspection or sampling, or it's not safe and suitable for people to eat, then you'll receive clearance with direction. Directions given may include reprocessing the food, re-exporting it, or destroying it.

Who to contact

If you have questions about:

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