Transporting Food and Hazardous Goods Safely and Legally

If you are transporting foodstuffs within the UK, you do not need the same level of certification as goods being imported or exported to other countries.

But you still need to follow a scrupulous hygiene regime and check that all refrigerated or frozen food is being kept at the correct temperature to avoid the risks of cross contamination or food poisoning.

This means that you must keep your vehicles clean and, where necessary, they should be disinfected on a regular basis. Vehicles should always be properly cleaned between loads and staff should be given guidelines on how to keep food fresh en route to its destination.

If a vehicle carries more than one type of food, it is important that they are separated effectively. For example, raw food should always be kept separated from cooked foods.


When food is being imported into the EU, specific checks are carried out at the first point of entry to reduce the possibility of disease or contamination. The type of checks that will be carried out will depend on the type of food being transported.

It’s important to follow the rules on importation of food because if your load does not comply or is judged unsafe, it will either be destroyed or re-exported at your expense.

Any food from animals (which covers products such as milk and eggs as well as meat) is known as a product of animal origin (POAO) and can only be imported at designated border posts. The importation has to be pre-notified and you need certification from the country of origin.

Take Advice

Documentation will be carefully checked and some of the load may even by physically checked to make sure that it doesn’t pose any threat. Any haulage company intending to import POAO goods for the first time should take specialist advice on the regulations involved.

Most other food products can be brought into the EU at any port but restrictions do apply to certain goods so check with the Food Standards Agency before importing any new type of foodstuff.

Confirmity Certificate

Certain foods such as fruit, vegetables and nuts will need a Conformity Certificate before they will be released at a border port. In addition, most fruit and some leafy vegetables and potatoes from certain countries will also need a phytosanitary certificate which confirms that they meet EU plant health and hygiene standards.

Transporting Foods Abroad

Transporting perishable foods to and from other countries is a specialised business and any vehicle used must have a certificate or carry a special plate showing that it meets the international standards for thermal efficiency and refrigeration.

These standards are set by the ATP (Agreement on the international carriage of perishable foodstuffs). In the UK, the inspecting authority is Cambridge Refrigeration Technology.

An ATP certificate is needed for most food deliveries overseas and it is against the law to transport perishable foods between countries without it.

In some countries such as Italy, France and Spain, if a refrigerated vehicle does not have a valid certificate or plate, drivers are heavily fined on the spot and they may be ordered to transfer their load to another vehicle.

To ensure compliance with ATP, a variety of inspections will be carried out, depending on the vehicle and load involved. For example, an inspector may ask to climb into the vehicle and have the doors closed to check that no daylight is entering which would suggest holes in the bodywork or faulty door seals.

Temperature is critical and tests may be carried out to make sure that correct temperatures are reached within a certain time limit.

Hazardous Goods

Many haulage vehicles carry dangerous substances which pose a risk of fire, explosion or environmental damage in the event of an accident.

For this reason, there are strict regulations about the transport of dangerous or hazardous goods and they must be assessed in a process known as classification before being transported for the first time.

The regulations differ depending on the type of hazard posed by the goods and when transporting anything that could be classed as an infectious substance, there are also packaging guidelines that must be followed.

Vehicles transporting dangerous or hazardous goods must be marked as such and must also carry the agreed symbols which enable emergency services to quickly identify the hazard involved in the event of a spillage or collision.

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