Classifying vitamins, supplements and herbal medicines for import and export

These instructions refer to chapters and headings in the UK Global Online Tariff. If you’re importing goods into Northern Ireland, or if this guide doesn’t include your item, see more information.

This guide covers products that are commonly referred to as:

  • herbal medicines or medicines
  • homeopathic and herbal remedies
  • Food supplements (food and diet)
  • Tonics

They are classified according to:

  • their purpose – whether medical or for general health and wellbeing
  • their content and additives
  • the way they are made, for example, for retail sale or in measured doses for a particular application

Definition of vitamins, food preparations and herbal medicines

When classifying medicinal products, especially in Chapter 30, the following terms can apply:

  • Active ingredient – a chemically defined substance or group of substances such as alkaloids, polyphenols, anthocyanins or plant extracts (must have medicinal properties in order to prevent or treat certain diseases, ailments or symptoms)
  • Excipient – a non-nutritional substance (such as magnesium stearate) that is added when tablets are made
  • Provitamin – a substance that can be converted into a vitamin in the body
  • Herbal medicinal products – preparations based on one or more active substances, which are obtained from a plant (or parts of plants) by a process such as drying, crushing, extracting or cleaning
  • Homeopathic medicinal preparations – preparations made from products, substances or compositions that are referred to as “homeopathic stocks” or “mother tinctures” and in which the mother tinctures are diluted (e.g. in alcohol or water, the degree of dilution must be expressed as a number such as “D6”)
  • Vitamin or mineral preparations – preparations based on vitamins (of heading 2936) or based on minerals (including trace elements and mixtures of minerals) which are used for the treatment or prevention of certain diseases, ailments or their symptoms (usually 3 – times more than recommended) daily allowance (RDA) of vitamins and minerals)

Vitamins and provitamins

Heading 2936 includes in particular:

  • Vitamins
  • Provitamins
  • Derivatives mainly used as vitamins
  • Mixtures of provitamins, vitamins and vitamin derivatives

Separately defined organic compounds, such as vitamins, must meet strict conditions that determine which additives may be classified in Chapter 29.

They can be dissolved in water (or another solvent), but the solution should only be used where it is necessary for safety or transport reasons.

Stabilizers (e.g. release agents) and special additives (e.g. antioxidants) can be added, but only to maintain the vitamin compound or for transport purposes.

Vitamin products are not classified under heading 2936 if added ingredients:

  • are intended for purposes other than preservation or transport – e.g. for binding agent components and for capsule shells to indicate the dosage
  • have the intended purpose of giving the product a specific use (rather than a general use) – for example when capsules are used to indicate a daily dose

Vitamin products for use as food supplements in single capsules, tablets or capsules are classified as food preparations under 2106.

Food preparations and nutritional supplements

The food preparations of heading 2106 include, inter alia:

  • Food or dietary supplements (based on substances such as plant extracts, fruit concentrates, honey or fructose) that contain additional vitamins – the packaging often indicates that they are beneficial for maintaining general health or well-being
  • Mixtures of plants (or parts of plants) with other ingredients, such as plant extracts (these mixtures are used to make herbal teas and infusions) – the end product can serve a specific purpose, including use as a laxative, laxative or diuretic, but some can too claim they use it to:
    • Alleviate symptoms and discomfort
    • Promote general health or wellbeing
  • Mixtures of ginseng extract with other ingredients to make ginseng tea or other beverages

Products that do not treat, cure or prevent disease or ailments are generally classified as food preparations and are therefore classified under this heading.

Tonics and liquid food supplements

Tonics and liquid food supplements for immediate consumption are discussed in Chapter 22. These products contain additional vitamins or iron compounds and are intended to maintain overall health or wellbeing. They are generally treated under one of the following headings:

  • 2202 – soft drinks
  • 2205 – flavored wines
  • 2206 – Mixtures of fermented beverages, mixtures of fermented beverages with non-alcoholic beverages and other fermented beverages
  • 2208 – Spirits, even if they are intended to be consumed in small quantities (including tonic wines fortified with herbal extracts or vitamins and liquid herbal remedies based on distilled alcohol)

Food supplements for animals

Food supplements containing vitamins and other ingredients (such as cereals and proteins) are classified in heading 2309.

Vitamins for general use to which only approved substances (such as stabilizers) are added are excluded from this heading. These are to be classified under heading 2936 – see vitamins and provitamins.

Herbal medicinal preparations and medicines

Products for the treatment or prevention of diseases or conditions are classified under heading 3003 or 3004. They may be used:

  • internal or external
  • to treat humans or animals

Products that serve to maintain general health and well-being are expressly excluded from Chapter 30.

Pharmaceutical preparations in measured doses (such as ampoules, syringes or capsules) are classified in heading 3004. Heading 3004 also includes retail sales of:

  • herbal and homeopathic remedies
  • containing certain preparations:
    • Vitamins
    • Minerals
    • essential amino acids
    • Fatty acids

These products must contain specific information for consumers on their labels or packaging or on the accompanying instructions for use. This information must show:

  • specific diseases, complaints or defects (or their symptoms) for which the product is intended to be used
  • Concentration of the active ingredients on which the product is based
  • dosage
  • Application mode

If the product is used to maintain general health or well-being, it must contain a much higher content of vitamins and minerals than the recommended daily allowance.

RDA for vitamins

An RDA is set for certain vitamins and minerals. The RDA is the minimum amount the body needs to stay healthy. The following table for nutritional labeling of foods contains the RDA for a number of vitamins and minerals:

vitamin RDA
Vitamin A 800 micrograms
Vitamin D 5 micrograms
Vitamin E. 12 milligrams
Vitamin K 75 micrograms
vitamin C 80 milligrams
Thiamine 1.1 milligrams
Riboflavin 1.4 milligrams
niacin 16 milligrams
Vitamin B6 1.4 milligrams
Folic acid 200 micrograms
Vitamin B12 2.5 micrograms
Biotin 50 micrograms
Pantothenic acid 6 milligrams

RDA for minerals

mineral RDA
potassium 2 grams
chloride 800 milligrams
calcium 800 milligrams
phosphorus 700 milligrams
magnesium 375 milligrams
iron 14 milligrams
zinc 10 milligrams
copper 1 milligram
manganese 2 milligrams
fluoride 3.5 milligrams
selenium 55 micrograms
chrome 40 micrograms
molybdenum 50 micrograms
iodine 150 micrograms

More information

If this guide concerns your item, you will still need to look up the full commodity code to use in your declaration of the applicable tariff.

If a particular item is not covered in detail and you are importing goods to the UK, you can search for it on the online retail tariff.

If you are importing goods into Northern Ireland from outside the UK and the EU and the goods are not “at risk” of being transported into the EU, you should also use the online retail tariff.

If you are bringing goods into Northern Ireland from outside the UK and the EU and the goods are under threat of re-entry into the EU, you should use the Northern Ireland (EU) Tariff.

Get more help finding a commodity code.

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