Returning Australian products

​Returning Australian goods that have previously been exported is prohibited unless the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (the department) deems the product acceptable under the Biosecurity Act 2015. Importers may need to obtain an Import Permit to import these goods back into Australia.

The department understands that consignments of exported Australian product may have to be returned on short notice. To expedite the permit issuing process, applications for import permits for returning Australian products must be accompanied by the following supporting information.

This information is used by the department to determine whether the product is of Australian origin, and likely to contain or be cross-contaminated with a disease or agent that may compromise Australia's highly favourable animal, plant and human health status.

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The department’s export health certificate

  • A copy of the Export certificate issued for the specific consignment.
  • Bill of Lading for outgoing and return journey.

The form in which the product is returning

Provide details such as whether the:

  • container seals are intact (container unopened)
  • container seals broken but product (e.g. meat) intact in original container
  • container seals broken and product (e.g. meat) samples withdrawn
  • containers unpacked under foreign quarantine supervision
  • containers unpacked but not under foreign quarantine supervision, and/or
  • container cleared quarantine and currently not under quarantine supervision.

Note that each point above represents an increase in the risk level of the product due to a greater potential for contamination or substitution of the product.

The reason for return

Provide details on why the product was rejected or why the product is being returned. Documentation to support the statements to be provided (e.g. laboratory results, customs report, etc.)

Whether product is to be exported again or consumed domestically

If the product is for domestic consumption it may be subject to the Imported Food Control Act 1992. The relevant State jurisdiction may be informed by the department about the product, including the reason for its return to Australia.

Australian Port that the product is returning to

For example, Melbourne, Sydney, etc.

The department reserves the right to request additional information to that outlined above including government certification from the ‘exporting’ country in order to provide the department with the assurance that the returning Australian product has not been contaminated or substituted.

The steps and responsibilities for returned prescribed goods are outlined in the flow chart below.

Flow chart of regulatory action on prescribed goods returned to Australia 

Regulatory action on prescribed goods returned to Australia

  • Before goods are returned to Australia they must be assessed for biosecurity risk – that is the risk that the goods may pose to plant, animal, and/or human health. Importers may be required to obtain an import permit.
  • The department's Animal and Biological Import Assessment Branch will make an assessment based on the information that they are provided by the importer and relevant authorities.
  • If the goods cannot be re-imported for any reason, they cannot be imported. If for some reason the goods are already in the country they must be destroyed or re-exported.
  • In cases where a permit is issued, or the department deems that a permit is not required and the goods can be returned to Australia, the importer can determine whether the goods are destined for the domestic market or for re-exporting.

Domestic market

  • Food products that will be directed to the domestic market may be directed for testing by the department's Imported Food Inspection Scheme which checks that certain foods are safe for human consumption and comply with the relevant standards. Importers will be informed if the food requires inspection under this scheme
  • If the product is not referred to the Imported Food Inspection Scheme, the State or Territory jurisdiction into which the food will be released may be notified of the product details and reason for return. It is possible that the State or Territory authority will deem the product unacceptable and seek its destruction.


  • If the goods are to re-enter the export chain they will not be subject to testing by the Imported Food Program or State jurisdiction. The owner of the goods must ensure that all the requirements of the Export Control Act 1982 are met.