Returning Australian products

Before goods that have been exported from Australia can be returned to Australia, the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources must assess the biosecurity risk. The department needs to verify that the product is of Australian origin, and whether it’s likely to contain or have been cross-contaminated with a disease or agent that may compromise Australia's highly favourable animal, plant and human health status. Returning Australian goods is prohibited under the Biosecurity Act 2015, unless the department deems them acceptable.

The department needs to determine whether the product is of Australian origin, or likely to contain or be cross-contaminated with a disease or agent that can compromise Australia's highly favourable animal, plant and human health status. Returning Australian goods that have been exported is prohibited unless the department deems them acceptable under the Biosecurity Act 2015.

You may need an import permit.

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

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The department’s export health certificate

  • A copy of the Export certificate issued by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources 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  • container seals broken and product (e.g. meat) samples withdrawn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.

Each subsequent point above represents an increased biosecurity risk due to greater potential for contamination or substitution.

The reason for return


  • details on why the product was rejected or why the product is being returned
  • supporting documentation  (e.g. laboratory results, customs report, etc.).

Whether product is for export or domestic consumption

If the product is for domestic consumption it may be subject to the Imported Food Control Act 1992. The department may inform the relevant state jurisdiction about the product and the reason for its return to Australia.

Australian port that the product is returning to

For example, Melbourne, Sydney, etc.

Regulatory action on prescribed goods returned to Australia

  • Products must be assessed for biosecurity risk before they are returned to Australia, and they may need  an import permit.
  • The department's Animal and Biological Import Assessment Branch will make an assessment based on the information provided by the importer and relevant authorities.
  • If the goods cannot be re-imported but 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, the importer must declare whether the goods are destined for the domestic market or for re-exporting.

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

Domestic market

  • Food products for the domestic market may be tested by the department's Imported Food Inspection Scheme, which checks that 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 for which the food is destined may be notified. It is possible that the state or territory will deem the product unacceptable and seek its destruction.


  • If the goods are to be re-exported 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.
Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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