What You Need to Know Before Importing Food into New Zealand

5-minute read

To import food into New Zealand for sale, individuals need to understand and comply with the requirements under the Food Act 2014. Ministry for Primary Industries has developed guides to help you comply with the process.

Here we look at the steps you will need to complete to successfully register and import food into New Zealand.

Who should read it?

Any person or business wanting to bring food into New Zealand for sale.


  • A New Zealand resident wanting to import food into NZ.
  • A person or business based in another country wanting to import food into NZ.
  • An import broker or agent importing food into NZ.

Why should you read it?

  • So you understand how to ensure food imported for sale in New Zealand is safe for people to eat. You could be fined or even jailed if you sell food that is not safe and suitable.
  • To make sure you do not have to recall products which can be costly.
  • To make sure you can continue to import.

What do you need to do?

An overview of steps needed to become and be an importer

What You Need to Know Before Importing Food into New Zealand_2

1. Register


If you are importing food into New Zealand for sale or export, you must be registered as an MPI food importer or use a registered agent. The registered importer must be a New Zealand resident.


  • So MPI (Ministry for Primary Industries) knows who is importing food and how to contact them.
  • So the public knows who is importing (The list of registered importers is on the MPI website).


Complete an NZ Customs 224 — TSW Client Registration Application/Update form and tick that you want to be a food importer under the Food Act. Forms and documents can be found on the NZ Customs website.

You will need to renew annually. MPI will send a reminder. Keep your contact details up to date to ensure you receive them.


This is listed on the NZ Customs 224 form.

2. Check you can import and sell the food


Some foods can not be bought into New Zealand. You will not be able to bring in endangered plants or animals, and some food considered of too great of a risk to the NZ environment, plants and animals or people.

If you ship such food to New Zealand, you may need to ship it back out of NZ, or it may be destroyed.


  • The information on the NZ Customs website on Prohibited imports. This lists things that cannot be imported. E.g. endangered species.
  • That there is a Biosecurity Import Health Standard (IHS) for the Food (MPI website). This outlines controls to protect the NZ environment, plants and animals. If there is no IHS, then you will not be able to import it.
  • Prohibited and restricted plants and fungi listed in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code.

3. Check if additional rules or proof is required


Some foods pose a higher risk to people’s health or the New Zealand environment, plants and animals. There are additional rules for these foods, and you may need to get permission from MPI to import them.

This permission is called ‘clearance’.

  • You will need biosecurity clearance (for plants and animals)
  • You may need food safety clearance (for people’s health)

If you cannot provide the correct proof, or the food does not meet the requirements, you may need to ship it back out of New Zealand, or it may be destroyed. This will be at a cost to the importer.

Check this information on the MPI website:

• The rules and checks listed in the Import Health Standards

Rules and checks for food that needs food safety clearance (these are called ‘high regulatory interest foods’, or ‘increased regulatory interest foods’)

4. Source Safe and Suitable Food You must

Check and make sure that the food you are planning to import is safe and suitable.


Food is not always safe. It needs to be handled in ways that make sure it is safe. It is your job to make sure that it is and prove that you have done so.


Look at the food business and the details of the food. You could ask for:

  • A certificate that shows the business complies with a food safety programme in their country.
  • Proof that the food business is registered with a food safety authority.
  • The product details – chemical, physical and microbiological quality.
  • Proof that the food will comply with the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code. This includes rules that product labels are printed in English and list all ingredients.page5image1331986304

5. Keep Food Safe and Suitable

You need to keep the food safe from start to finish. This includes making sure it is stored and transported correctly.

You must

Do your best to make sure that the food is:

  • Kept at the correct temperature, and that temperature is controlled correctly. For example, frozen meat should remain frozen.
  • Protected from pests such as rats and mice.
  • Kept separate from other products that may contaminate the food.

Do your best to make sure:

  • The packaging is clean and safe.
  • Damage to packaging is prevented.
  • Where bulk containers are used that they are cleaned before use.


Food can become dangerous if it is not looked after properly. It is your job to prove that you have done your best to make sure the food is safe to eat.


A contract with a transport and storage company could cover the requirements above, or you could:

  • Ask for other written information about these things
  • Visit the company and check these things

6. Keep or have access to records

You must

Keep, or have easy access to records that show:

  • You have done your best to source, transport and store food correctly so that it is safe and suitable.
  • You know what was imported, where it came from, and where it was sold.


  • To prove that you have met your requirements and ensure you can continue to import.
  • To make sure you can recall (i.e. find and remove from sale) any food that is not safe and suitable


You can either put in place a system to keep all the records yourself or contract someone else to do this.

If you contract it out, you should review the systems in place or obtain written assurances from the contracted party that they will keep all records needed.

You should run tests to make sure you can provide information quickly.

The above information is intended as a guide only. Regulations can change without notice, and for more information, specific guidance, and questions about importing food, please visit the NZ Customs and MPI websites.

Source: Before Importing into New Zealand Guide, New Zealand Food Safety by Ministry for Primary Industries

P.S. Easy Freight Ltd helps New Zealand importers & exporters to save money on international freight and reduce mistakes by guiding how to comply with Customs and biosecurity rules. 

➔  Contact us now to learn how we can assist you.