Help and advice

Sending food to the USA


In 2004 the United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA) informed all parcel carriers that as from 12th August 2004,  they were going to start strictly enforcing the legislation which was put into effect in December 2003. This impacted all business customers exporting food items to the USA . Parcelforce Worldwide recommends that customers read the briefing fully.

The key change since its introduction is that whilst this legislation no longer applies to private individuals, it remains essential for all business customers. Business customers must comply, or face parcels being returned to sender or destroyed.

Please contact the FDA if you have any enquiries.

Which food imports to the US are covered by the regulations?

All manufactured food and drink for human or animal consumption posted to the US by business customers, from countries all over the world, will be subject to prior notice being obtained before the item can be accepted for posting. The only exemptions are food made by an individual at home sent as a personal gift to an individual in the USA, and a manufactured item sent by a private individual. Business must comply with the legislation.

What do I need to do before I can post food or drink to the US?

You must obtain a prior notification reference number from the US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) which can be obtained electronically from and then write this number on the customs declaration, which must also be completed in full, before requesting a Parcelforce Worldwide collection, or taking the package to a Post Office branch for posting.

The information that the FDA requires is straightforward and includes; details of the manufacturer (from the label or food packaging), details of the sender, details of the intended recipient in the US, date of posting, name of carrier (e.g Parcelforce Worldwide). The FDA estimates that a reply with your unique reference number should take no longer than 15 minutes.

This facility is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and is free of charge. Failure to comply with these regulations either by not providing a prior notice reference number or proving an inaccurate description of the food being sent, will result in the packages being returned to sender or destroyed.

If you would like to know more about these regulations, you can contact the FDA at

What option is available for customers without web access in order to gain approvals?

As this is a US Government regulation, the only way to get the necessary documentation is to contact the US FDA. Forms are available and can be posted out to customers, but it could take a couple of weeks from requesting the form to receiving approval.

We would suggest that once a customer has received the forms, they make copies in case they want to send food items to the US again in the future.

How can I make sure a homemade item won't also be returned to sender or destroyed?

Customers can ensure that homemade items reach their destination in the US safely and without delay, by clearly marking on the customs declaration form that it is a home made product.

What will happen to the package if it does not have approval?

Royal Mail, Parcelforce Worldwide  and Post Office Limited have been instructed not to accept items which do not bear a notification number. Failure to comply with these regulations, either by not providing a prior notice reference number, or providing an inaccurate description of the food being sent will result in the package being returned to sender (if it has a return address) or destroyed when it reaches the US.

When did these regulations come into effect?

As a result of the US Bio terrorism Act important new regulations came into effect on 12 December 2003 and applies to all manufactured food and drink imported into the United States.

Why are you introducing these regulations?

It is the US Food and Drugs Authority that has introduced these regulations. Parcelforce Worldwide and all other postal operators, both private or public, must comply with their instructions.

Does the US think the UK presents a threat in terms of bio terrorism?

This restriction is not aimed specifically at people sending items to the US from the UK. The restrictions apply to all countries across the globe. This Act has also resulted in restrictions for companies producing foodstuffs in the US.

Surely the US can't impose this sort of restriction?

Although the reason behind this regulation is probably the first of its kind, it is certainly not unusual for countries to impose restrictions on items which they will not allow to be imported either for religious or cultural reasons.

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