Processed foods from plants

To import processed food from plants 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 processed foods from plants from start to finish.

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What this import process includes

This import process is for dried, stored, or processed plant food products for human consumption, including:

  • fruit, vegetables, or fungi, herbs, and spices that have been dried, frozen, cooked, or preserved (not fresh, peeled, diced, or chopped)
  • grains, seeds, or nuts that have been chopped, kibbled, hulled, or ground
  • nut, oils, or plant extracts made into liquid, capsules, pills, and powders
  • powdered starters such as koji rice, miso, and tempeh
  • some pre-approved commercial brands.
Pre-approved commercial brands

Some commercial brands of fruit and vegetables that have had limited processing are considered 'fresh'. MPI can assess the processing of these types of goods and may approve certain branded supplier goods. If the brand and product is listed on the approved processed commodities list then you may be able to import them. To confirm your product's current status with MPI, email plantimports@mpi.govt.nz

To get a product added to the approved commodities list, read what you have to do on the 'Requirements for approved processed commodities list'.

Note that if your product contains any other ingredient, like egg, meat, dairy, or seafood, then you also need to comply with the import process for each ingredient.

Importing related products

Processes for importing products related to processed food from plants – like unprocessed grains, seeds, and nuts, and other plant products – are provided elsewhere on this website. Follow these steps if you're importing:

To import processed foods from plants 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
  • permits and certificates, if needed
  • arranging manufacturers' declarations or treatment certificates, if needed
  • booking a transitional facility, if required.
New Zealand Customs Service requirements
  • product prohibitions and restrictions
  • tariffs and permits
  • using a customs broker.
Food Act requirements
  • food importer registration
  • general requirements of registered food importers – sourcing and keeping food safe and suitable, records, and recalls
  • the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code, including labelling, composition and restricted foods
  • foods classed of "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.

Exported goods returning to New Zealand

All exporters are legally obliged to notify MPI if their export goods are being returned to New Zealand – for example, if a consignment has been rejected by an importing country.

Before the product is returned to New Zealand the exporter or importer should email the details to food.assurance@mpi.govt.nz.

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.

Identify what you're importing

You need to know the name of your plant (common or scientific name), where it is from, and what type of processing it has undergone.

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. This may include getting manufacturers' declarations and treatment certificates. You may only be able to import some products from countries listed or named in the IHS.

Most plant-based food products are covered by the import health standard IHS BNZ-NPP-Human. Check this IHS first to see whether your product is listed.

Download the IHS for importing stored plant products intended for human consumption [PDF, 430 KB]

If your product isn't listed, check to see if it's covered by the IHS 152.02 for importing fresh fruit and vegetables.

Download the IHS for importing fresh fruit and vegetables [PDF, 1.5 MB]

Alternatively, you can search for the IHS for your product.

If there's no IHS for your product, you can't import it.

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

  • apply and pay for a biosecurity permit before your product is shipped
  • 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 plantimports@mpi.govt.nz.

Options when your product isn't included in an IHS

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

You'll need to supply information to show how the risks managed by the IHS will be managed to an equivalent level (for example, by providing information about processing details).

You'll also need to provide MPI with supporting information, as listed in the IHS. MPI will issue a biosecurity permit if your request is approved.

To ask about equivalence, email plantimports@mpi.govt.nz.

Ask MPI

If you don't understand the IHS requirements, email plantimports@mpi.govt.nz.

Check other agencies' import restrictions

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
  • an NZ Customs permit is needed.

Visit the NZ Customs website to:

Some plant products are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and cannot be transported between countries, or can only be imported with a permit.

Visit the Ministry of Health's website to check the restrictions on importing controlled drugs and the licence requirements for industrial hemp.

Restricted plant species are Papaver somniferum (poppy seed), Cannabis sativa (hemp) and Salvia species.

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 phytosanitary requirements

The IHS may require your product to have a phytosanitary certificate, which is issued in the country of export. Additional declarations may also be required for your plant-based food product.

To meet the requirements you may need to complete some or all of these tasks before shipping:

  • arrange pre-shipment inspection for detectable pests and arrange fumigation or other treatments, if necessary
  • arrange testing, if importing viable seed
  • use approved packaging and shipping materials that are free of soil or other contaminants
  • label the consignment with its scientific (genus and species) name
  • meet any extra requirements listed in the IHS.

You're also recommended to get manufacturers' information identifying the commercial processes used on your product.

If you're using wood packaging, make sure it meets phytosanitary requirements.

Apply for a phytosanitary certificate, if needed

To apply for a certificate you or your export supplier should contact the relevant National Plant Protection Organisation (NPPO, an equivalent agency to MPI) in the country of export. You can find the contact details on the International Plants Protection Convention (IPPC) website.

A phytosanitary certificate is issued once the contact-point NPPO is satisfied that the IHS requirements have been met.

The original phytosanitary certificate must be included with your consignment.

Test for genetically modified (GM) seed, if required

If the IHS requires testing for your seed species, you'll need to have it tested before it arrives in New Zealand, and the certificate must accompany your consignment.

Have the seed analysed and certified, if required

If your consignment is accompanied by a seed analysis certificate (SAC), a smaller sample may be required for testing. This can result in a faster clearance of your consignment at the border.

If you decide to get a SAC, you need to have the seed analysed either by an MPI-approved or an ISTA- or AOSA-accredited seed-testing station. Ask your seed supplier about seed analysis options.

Apply for an import permit, if required

The IHS will tell you whether an import permit is needed for your food product. If required, apply for a permit by completing the application form and returning it to MPI. Fees apply.

Download the form to apply for an import permit [PDF, 219 KB]

Arrange a transitional facility, if required

MPI approves transitional facilities to hold and manage imported goods that might have a biosecurity risk. These goods may have to be inspected or treated at the transitional facility before they can be cleared by MPI.

All sea containers arriving in New Zealand need to be taken to a transitional facility and unpacked there.

You or your customs broker need to arrange for the transfer of your container to a transitional facility, before your goods arrive in New Zealand.

Check the requirements for packaging

Packaging must be secure so that pests cannot get inside, and it must be clean and free from soil or other contaminants. If you're using wood products (other than paper) to pack your consignment,  there are extra conditions to meet, to make sure there are no hidden pests or diseases.

Correct labelling will help ensure that your consignment can be quickly identified and processed by border clearance staff when it arrives in New Zealand.

Submit all required documentation

You or your customs broker need to make sure that all of the necessary documentation is submitted to NZ Customs or MPI within 48 hours of the consignment arriving in New Zealand.

If required by the IHS, documentation may include:

  • a copy of the phytosanitary certificate
  • a manufacturer's certificate
  • treatment certificates
  • purchase invoice
  • a bill of lading
  • a sea freight container declaration or airway bill.
Comply with on-arrival inspections, if required

Your documentation will be checked, and an MPI inspector may examine the consignment when it arrives in New Zealand to make sure it complies with the IHS. The inspector may check that:

  • the consignment is as described
  • correct labelling is used, if required
  • the consignment and packaging are free of contaminants (detritus, soil, disease, and pests).

The MPI quarantine inspector may issue a Biosecurity Authority Clearance Certificate (BACC) requiring:

  • more information to be provided
  • documentation to be corrected
  • the consignment to be treated
  • the consignment to be moved to a transitional facility, to be held for inspection.

The inspection process and information about pest or weed contamination are detailed in the IHS.

If your consignment doesn't comply on arrival

If your plant product doesn't comply with IHS requirements when it arrives, or it's found to be seriously contaminated (such as with live organisms), you may need to:

  • treat your product (for example, by fumigation or weed seed removal)
  • identify the organism (and treat it if it's a restricted pest)
  • ship the product to another country
  • destroy the product.

All treatments have to be done at a transitional facility by an approved treatment provider. You're liable for any costs associated with non-compliance or contamination.

Search for an approved treatment provider [PDF, 132 KB]

Download the list of MPI-approved pest identification services [PDF, 100 KB]

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.

As a registered food importer 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 processed foods such as stuffed pasta and some sauces.

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.

Processed food from plants that are of regulatory interest
  • products of peanuts or pistachio nuts, including peanut butter
  • products of tahini and crushed sesame seeds
  • pepper, chilli and paprika spices
  • frozen berry fruit

If coming from a country other than Australia, these foods will need to be checked. If they're shown to be safe, you'll be given a food safety clearance and the food can be imported.

Processed food from plants from Australia

You can import any processed food from plants from Australia without a food safety clearance.

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

If your processed food from plants doesn't need food safety clearance, go to Step 3 – Getting your import documentation.

Getting food safety clearance

If you're importing processed food from plants that requires food safety clearance, you may be asked to demonstrate its safety one of 3 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. Official certificate: For some countries, MPI will accept official certificates (from the appropriate government agency) as assurance the food is safe.
  3. 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

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, 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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All imported plant products need biosecurity clearance. 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 you were issued with a Biosecurity Authority Clearance Certificate (BACC) by an MPI quarantine inspector, you may need to present this documentation to other agencies.

If your products don't comply with an IHS, your goods may not be cleared. However, you may be given the chance to provide further documentation about 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.

Importer responsibilities and alerts

Food can't be sold that is unsafe, unfit for human consumption, or contaminated. It's your responsibility as an importer to ensure that all legal requirements are met.

Food importers should regularly check any alerts issued for food recalled overseas, and for developing risks.

Who to contact

If you have questions about:

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