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Plant health documents: Aflatoxin, organic and phytosanitary certificates

The Plant Health Agency (PHA) work alongside the port health authorities to protect the public, animal and environmental health of the UK on behalf of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). 

Within the PHA, the plant health and seeds inspectorate (PHSI) are responsible for controlling the movement of certain plants and plant products, such as soil, to ensure that it is safe to be consumed or planted in the UK. 

The process pf screening plant products, when importing and exporting, is dependant on certificates that are produced at source. These licenses document information about each consignment that is directly relevant to the commodity.

As well as validating the safety of each individual consignment, plant health certificates also contain information that other consignments will share in the event that they need to be checked, such as a batch or field number, or a harvest date.

Since Brexit, shipments to and from the EU now require certificates, although the UK has delayed full plant health checks until 2022. Some shipments from the EU, such as plants that are due to be planted and grown, still require a check by DEFRA despite more relaxed restrictions in general. 

Aflatoxin certificates

Aflatoxins are produced by naturally occurring moulds on some plant foods, such as nuts. These moulds are normally invisible to the eye but their toxins can be dangerous to animals and humans if consumed in high doses. For this reason, consignments of foods that pose a risk are checked to ensure that they are safe for sale. 


Aflatoxin tests are performed before the goods are exported and, assuming that the consignment meets export requirements, the levels of aflatoxin are noted on an aflatoxin certificate. 

Plant health authorities in the UK require sight of this certificate, to check that the exporter has conformed to requirements, before the consignment can be released into free circulation in the UK.

Organic certificates

Organic certificates confirm to the importing party and authorities that the grower is accredited and authorised to sell their goods as organic. This allows buyers to trust that the goods they are buying meet a certain standard, and the organic mark clearly defines those standards to consumers. Organic food is widely considered to be better for health, and attracts a higher price than non-organic food. 

Organic certification can also be awarded to animals; however, there can be a requirement that a certain amount of the livestock fodder must be organic in order for the animal to qualify. 


Phytosanitary checks by plant health

Phytosanitary checks are required on most plant movements in order to ensure that the consignment has been thoroughly checked, by an appropriate body, for pests and other hazards, such as rot. 


The phytosanitary certificate will also provide plant health authorities with the exact type (the genus and species) of plant that is being imported, as well as the quantity that has been checked. depending on the type of consignment, the quantity will be in number of plants, or weight. 


If you need help identifying which plant health certificate(s) you need when importing or exporting plant products, please speak with one of our experts today.

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