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International Forwarding Association Blog » Specialized transportation » Cold Chain Regulations and Standards around the World

Cold Chain Regulations and Standards around the World

The cold chain is key to preserving food and reducing the risk of foodborne illness. Stakeholders around the world, including researchers, standard-setting agencies, regulators, and industry leaders agree on the importance of ensuring food safety during transit. Food laws aim to incorporate safety best practices in line with changes in distribution, technical innovation, and knowledge. Yet, legislation varies widely from one country to another when it comes to food standards and public health protection.

Customs Requirements and Shipping Regulations

Subject to customs formalities in the destination of arrival, forwarders and individual customers may need a permit by a food governing body or an import license. Are you allowed to send sausages to Qatar, milk to Singapore, or ice cream to China? Making assumptions about food standards and national legislation can be a costly mistake. Here is what you should know about country-specific customs requirements and shipping food in need of specialized transportation.


European Union

EU Member States have been actively working to adopt harmonized food legislation for a population of about 460 million. Regulation 178/2002 sets the general principles of food safety to ensure the protection of human health and life and consumers’ interests. Products that cannot be imported in the EU include food that is unfit for human consumption or is injurious to health.

In terms of more specific restrictions and border controls, foodstuff includes:

  • Fishery products from Albania containing histamine
  • Groundnut meals and flours from Argentina containing aflatoxins
  • Chinese celery from Cambodia due to pesticide residues
  • Sweet peppers from the Dominican Republic due to pesticide residues
  • Pistachios from Iran containing aflatoxins

United States

With a population of over 329 million, the U.S. state and federal authorities control the retailing, distribution, and manufacture of refrigerated/chilled foods. The Food and Drug Administration is tasked with monitoring the sale, storage, import, and manufacture of foodstuffs that must be in compliance with relevant legislation.

As food safety requirements vary by country, it is advisable that importers contact an import specialist to inquire what is required, based on country of origin and type of food as well as whether there are any quotas.  Bush meat produced from African wildlife, in particular, is not admissible.

New Zealand and Australia

Food safety standards have been implemented as part of an agreement between New Zealand, Australia, the mainland territories, and the Australian States. Specialized agencies within each jurisdiction are tasked with food surveillance under the Imported Food Control Act 1992.

Foods that require a valid import permit include:

  • Trout
  • Whole salmon
  • Raw unroasted nuts
  • Popping corn
  • Uncanned meat
  • Fresh vegetables and fruit
  • Eggs
  • Cereal seeds
  • Peas
  • Beans

Additionally, restricted and prohibited items include meat products of any kind and any shipment that originates or has travelled through Bangladesh, Egypt, or Somalia. When it comes to small shipments, the list of restricted items includes foods with dairy and eggs, nuts, and fresh fruit. Avoid packaging options such as dried plant and straw material, wooden boxes, and egg cartons.