If you’re heading home to spend Christmas with family or they’re coming out to stay with you, be aware of the rules regarding food and drink, and what you can and can’t bring in and out of Britain and the EU.
Some rules have changed recently, following Brexit, so read the Local’s guide below to make sure you aren’t caught out at customs.
Flying to the UK from Italy
For those returning to the UK from Italy, the rules are relatively lax.
Note, if you’re spending Christmas in Northern Ireland there are different rules on food and animal products. Find them here.
You can bring the following products from Italy into the UK without worrying about any restrictions:
- bread, but not sandwiches filled with meat or dairy products
- cakes without fresh cream
- chocolate and confectionery, but not those made with unprocessed dairy ingredients
- pasta and noodles, but not if mixed or filled with meat or meat products
- packaged soup, stocks and flavourings
- processed and packaged plant products, such as packaged salads and frozen plant material
- food supplements containing small amounts of an animal product, such as fish oil capsules
Meat, dairy, fish and animal products
If, like many of us, you have friends and family already putting in their orders for Italian treats, know that the rules on bringing meat, dairy, fish and other animal products into the UK are relatively relaxed.
You can bring in meat, fish, dairy and other animal products as long as they’re from the EU, so your Parmigiano Reggiano or finocchiona is safe.
For many, the big one, but there are some limits on how much booze you can bring in from Italy and the EU more generally.
How much you can bring depends on the type of alcohol, so get up to speed on the limits and make sure your Prosecco or Barolo isn’t taken off you or heavily taxed:
- beer – 42 litres
- still wine – 18 litres
- spirits and other liquors over 22 percent alcohol – 4 litres
- sparkling wine, fortified wine (port, sherry etc) and other alcoholic drinks up to 22 percent alcohol (not including beer or still wine) – 9 litres
It’s worth knowing that you can split your allowance, for example you could bring 4.5 litres of fortified wine and 2 litres of spirits (both half of your allowance).
Flying into Italy from the UK
While British borders are laid back when it comes to travelling with food and drink, the rules on food and drink are much tougher when entering the EU from the UK.
Importantly, tea bags – longed for by Brits the world over – are allowed. Marmite, which is vegan, is also OK but Bovril, which contains beef stock, is not.
Travellers arriving in the EU from Britain can, according to the European Travel Retail Confederation (ETRC), bring the following quantities of alcohol, so if you fancy a British tipple in Italy over Christmas it is possible, within reason: 4 litres of still wine and 16 litres of beer, 1 litre of spirits, or 2 litres of sparkling or fortified wine.
If you arrive in the EU from a non-EU country, you cannot bring any meat or dairy products with you. That means no Wensleydale, no Cornish Brie, and no British bacon to enjoy in Italy over Christmas.
The EU’s strict rules mean that all imports of animal-derived products technically come under these rules, so even chocolate is now banned because of the milk.
Similarly, if you’re planning on asking a friend or family member to bring you over some sweets, cakes, or other home comforts, be aware that the ban includes all products that contain any meat or dairy as an ingredient – which includes things like chocolate, fudge, custard and sweets (because of the gelatine.)
You are allowed to bring a small quantity of fruit and vegetables as well as eggs, some egg products, and honey.
Restricted quantities of fish or fish products are also allowed: eviscerated fresh fish products (gutted, with all the organs removed), and processed fishery products are allowed up to 20 kg or 1 fish, so you can enjoy some Scottish smoked salmon in Italy over Christmas if you want.
If you’re travelling with kids, note that powdered infant milk, infant food and specifically required medical foods are allowed up to 2kg, as is the case for pet foods.
Even classics like Christmas pudding and mince pies are banned because they contain suet, so if you’re planning on a British-style Christmas abroad, these won’t be making an appearance this year.
It is worth noting that these strict EU rules also apply when sending products by post, so if you were hoping to get around the newly applicable legislation by having someone send you a delivery of mince pies, they will probably be intercepted and confiscated by Italy’s postal service, unfortunately.
The Local also continues to receive widespread reports of extra charges still being applied to gift parcels sent to Italy from outside the EU, despite authorities insisting that this should not happen.