Obligations and liability

Trade and import of foodstuffs

Would you like to import foodstuffs or produce and sell foodstuffs yourself? There are a few things to keep in mind here. We are happy to help you and provide you with comprehensive information on the trade and import of foodstuffs.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact your chamber of commerce and industry
Information on the export promotion programme (business trips for 2022) of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (“Bundesanstalt für Landwirtschaft und Ernährung” – BMEL) can be found here.

Self-employed in the food trade

Legal form

In most cases, the legal forms sole proprietor, partnership under civil law (“GbR”), or a limited liability company (“GmbH”) are chosen for the establishment of food shops. A limited liability entrepreneurial company (“UG”) would also be conceivable. Seek advice from a tax consultant.
  • If you establish a limited liability entrepreneurial company or a limited liability company, or are a registered merchant (“eingetragener Kaufmann”), registration in the commercial register is mandatory. Registration is not required as a sole proprietor without merchant status or as a partnership under civil law.

What needs to be considered when registering a business?

Section 14 of the German Trade Regulation Act (“Gewerbeordnung” – GewO) states that before you start your food business, you must register your business with your local trade office (“Gewerbeamt”),
You must register your business with the trade and public order office (“Gewerbe- und Ordnungsamt”) responsible for the place where your business is located.
  • You must bring a valid identity card or passport (with confirmation of registration (“Meldebestätigung”)) and, if available, an extract from the commercial register.
  • The type of business must be stated on the relevant form. For example, trade in foodstuffs.
The trade office will inform the Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the tax office (“Finanzamt”) about the establishment of your business. The Chamber of Commerce and Industry will then contact you and be at your disposal for any questions.

Notification obligation for food businesses

A food business is a company carrying out an activity related to the production, processing, and distribution of foodstuffs.
Under European hygiene law, all food businesses have been required to register since 2004. You must therefore also register your business with the local food control authority (veterinary inspection office – “Veterinäramt”). Each permanent establishment must be reported to the authority.
  • Please complete the registration form linked here (DOC file - 49 KB), and send it to the veterinary inspection office responsible for you (see info box below for address).
  • This regulation does not apply to food business operators that operate in the private domestic sector, in particular those that grow crops or keep animals that supply foodstuffs.

Special features in the production of foodstuffs of animal origin or of perishable foodstuffs

  • If you process or produce foodstuffs of animal origin (i.e. all meat and fish products, milk and dairy products, and eggs and egg products as well as animal fats, gelatine, and collagen), you will also need a licence. The application for a licence must be submitted to the Regional Council (“Regierungspräsidium”) in Darmstadt via the municipal food control authority (veterinary inspection office) of the administrative district or city responsible for the permanent establishment. Approved establishments will receive an identification mark and identification number.
  • Would you like to sell self-produced foodstuffs or fresh foodstuffs? Please note the following:
  • Persons who produce, handle, or place perishable foodstuffs on the market on a commercial basis may carry out this activity only if they have attended an instruction course on the Infection Protection Act (“Infektionsschutzgesetz” – IfSG) before taking up the activity.
  • The instruction must be provided by the local health authority (“Gesundheitsamt”) or a registered doctor who is authorised to provide such instruction.
  • The certificate of instruction may not be older than three months at the time of commencement of the activity.
  • Those who already hold a health certificate under the Federal Communicable Diseases Act (“Bundesseuchengesetz”), which was still valid on 31 December 2000, are exempt from this first-time instruction course.
  • In addition, the Food Hygiene Regulation (“Lebensmittelhygieneverordnung” – LMHV) has been in force since August 2007. Perishable foodstuffs may therefore be produced, handled, or placed on the market only by persons who have the relevant expertise as a result of training.
    • This is not necessary if only packaged foodstuffs are placed on the market.
    • Persons who have completed scientific or vocational training in which knowledge and skills in the handling of foodstuffs, including food hygiene, are taught are exempt from this training requirement.

Additional information

Information on the labelling of foodstuffs

  • If you trade in foodstuffs, you must also comply with the provisions of the Food Information Regulation (“Lebensmittelinformationsverordnung” – LMIV). The aim of the regulation is to inform consumers about allergens, energy and nutritional values, imitation foods, and the origin of the product.
  • More information on food labelling can be found here.

Additional tips

Import of foodstuffs

Customs steps for import from third countries

  • Customs formalities must be observed when importing foodstuffs from third countries. In any case, you will need an EORI number, which you can apply for at customs using Form 0870a.
  • The prerequisite for this is that you have already registered a business with the local trade office. Use the EORI number and the 11-digit customs tariff number of the foodstuff to notify customs of the import of the goods.
  • The customs tariff number is used to determine the amount of the duty; this is generally levied directly by customs together with the import sales tax for foodstuffs at a rate of 7 percent.
  • Duty-free imports from third countries with which the EU has a free trade agreement (e.g. Switzerland) are possible with the appropriate certificates.

How are customs authorities involved in handling of foodstuffs from third countries?

The German customs authorities are involved in the monitoring of food law. They can, for example, stop food or food transport. They may also report suspected breaches of European or national food law to the competent food inspection authorities.

What needs to be considered for foods from third countries?

Foodstuffs from third countries must be safe (i.e. they must satisfy European and national criteria). In particular, they may not adversely affect human health.
In any event, the decision as to whether a foodstuff meets European and/or national conditions is taken by the relevant food control authority. In Darmstadt, this is the Regional Council.

What rules apply to the import of organic products from third countries?

The import of organic products and the labelling of products with the organic seal may be carried out only by companies that are inspected and certified in accordance with the EU legislation on organic farming.

Addresses of veterinary inspection and public health offices in the chamber district

Veterinary inspection offices

The main tasks of the veterinary inspection office are food monitoring, meat hygiene, animal health protection, animal disease control, and general veterinary services. It is responsible for monitoring the handling of foodstuffs and consumer goods as well as food hygiene.
  • City of Darmstadt
    Rheinstraße 67
    64295 Darmstadt
    Telephone: +49(0)6151 13 4370
    Email: avv@darmstadt.de
  • District of Darmstadt-Dieburg
    Rheinstraße 67
    64295 Darmstadt
    Telephone: +49(0)6151 951610
    Email: veterinaeramt@ladadi.de
  • District of Bergstraße
    Odenwaldstraße 5
    64646 Heppenheim
    Telephone: +49(0)6252 155977
    Email: veterinaeramt@Kreis-Bergstrasse.de
  • District of Groß-Gerau
    Wilhelm-Seipp-Straße 4
    64521 Groß-Gerau
    Telephone: +49(0)6152 989-643 or -427
    Email: veterinaeramt@kreisgg.de
  • District of Odenwald
    Michelstädter Straße 12
    64711 Erbach
    Telephone: +49(0)6164 5050

Public health offices

  • Public Health Office of the City of Darmstadt and the Administrative District of Darmstadt-Dieburg
    Niersteiner Straße 3
    64295 Darmstadt
    Telephone: +49(0)6151 33090
  • Public Health Office of the District of Bergstraße
    Street address: Kettelerstraße 29 – 64646 Heppenheim
    Postal address: Gräffstraße 5 – 64646 Heppenheim
    Telephone: +49(0)6252 15 – 5396
  • District Public Health Office of the District of Odenwald
    Albert-Schweitzer-Straße 8
    64711 Erbach
    Telephone: +49(0)6062 70293
  • Public Health Office of Groß-Gerau
    Wilhelm-Seipp-Straße 9
    64521 Groß-Gerau
    Telephone: +49(0)6152 989211

Contact persons at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry