Food imported into the EU must comply with the requirements of EU food law or other laws recognised as equivalent under an agreement with third-country. They must comply with any conditions of that agreement.
Food importers must withdraw food if they have any reason to believe there is non-compliance with any of the requirements. The legislation distinguishes broadly between food stuff of animal origin and other food stuff. Animal products include meat, egg, fish, dairy products, honey, et cetera. Non-animal products include vegetable, cereals, fruit juices, et cetera.
Procedures are prescribed for veterinary checks at EU border inspection posts on products imported from outside the EU. Products may only be imported if they comply with the principles of EU food law applicable from all stages of production, processing and distribution or the equivalent laws.
EU legislation provides for third countries from which specified animal origin imports are permitted taking account of
- health status of livestock
- the animal disease and health controls in the country, their efficiency, and
- in particular measures to protect against specific diseases causing risks to public or animal health.
Provided the country of origin is eligible, imports from eligible countries are permitted from approved establishments within the country. Establishments must contact authorities in their own country and make application for approval to the EU.
Imports of animals and animal products must be accompanied by health certification. EU legislation provides that checks that must be undertaken. Veterinary checks must be carried out by states on products which are imported.
There are safeguard measures in the case of serious hazard to animal health. Imports of animal origin must enter via border inspection posts where they will be subject to veterinary checks. Upon completion of veterinary checks, a certificate for the consignment of products issues.
There are specific additional animal health requirements for certain imports. On arrival, the animals and certificates must be verified by veterinarians at the border inspection post. Further checks may also be carried out at the final destination.
The EU has provided a list of third countries or parts and has laid down animal and public health certification requirements from those approved countries for the following food stuffs:
- Wrapped meat.
- Poultry, game, eggs.
- Fresh meat.
- Animal Casings.
- Animal products.
Composite products are foodstuffs intended for consumption which contain both processed animal origin products and products of plant or animal origin. It includes those products where the processing of primary product is an integral part of the production of the final product. Certain composite products are subject to veterinary checks at border import inspection posts.
There are certain derogations available.
There are EU regulations on 2000 and 2003 on veterinary inspection of animal products and fish products. Importers of animals and animal products must register with the Department of Agriculture. Agents, importers and their agents must be entered in the register and undertake to comply with veterinary legislation, provide 24-hours advanced notice of import, maintain records, obtain health certificates.
There are compulsory plant health checks on certain plants and plant products listed in legislation at the point of import into EU. Plants include living plants and parts thereof, include seeds, fruits and vegetable other than deep-frozen vegetables and cereals.
A phytosanitary certificate issued by the health authorities of the exporting state is required confirming that it complies with the legislative requirements and is free of harmful organisms and diseases.
Although detailed inspections may be required, their frequency may be reduced, where this can be justified on risk assessment basis.
Under agreement with the health authorities, inspections can be carried out at the place of destination rather than border entry posts. Importers must provide guarantees in order to be eligible. Plants must be moved under a plant health movement document to the destination.
Partial consignments of meat, meat products, milk and milk products are generally prohibited from entering the EU. There are limited exceptions including the following:
powdered infant milk food and special medical foods for personal consumption which does not require refrigeration before opening is a packaged proprietary brand for sale to the final consumer where the packaging is unbroken unless in current use.
Also exempted are personal consignments where the amount does not exceed that which could be reasonably consumed by an individual of meat and milk products from EFTA countries
The importation of other personal consignments of meat and milk are permitted only if they comply with certain requirements. They must be from approved countries and their importation must be declared at the border inspection post.
The importation of other animal products, fish, honey is permitted provided
- it is not subject to prohibition in the EU or national safeguard measures.
- It comes from approved third countries.
- It does not weigh more than 1 kilogram,
- It is produced in establishments approved in the country of origin.
Animal products imported from other EU states by private persons are permissible subject to conditions.
- not currently subject to prohibition in the EU or national safeguard measures because of animal and public health concerns.
- meat or milk products produced in EU-approved establishments.
- Products in proprietary packaging which is unbroken.
- Must not generally exceed 10 kilograms.
Food of non-animal origin may be permissible if it is imported from exporting establishments in third countries that are accepted as suppliers of imports to the EU. Hygiene requirements apply such as those relating to use of pesticides, food additives, food labelling and materials in contact with food stuff.
Generally food of non-animal origin may enter the EU without certification by the authorities in the third country and is not subject to pre-notification.
However, a number of specific products of non-animal origin are subject to harmonized control on their r importation from certain non-EU countries, which are subject to increased control. These are designated on the basis of the emerging risks.
Imports may be controlled temporarily and made subjected to conditions. Generally consignments may only be imported through designated entry points. Food operator businesses must give prior notification of the arrival of the goods and their nature. Documentary checks must be carried out and sampling analysis may be required prior to release.
The EU has not established a list of the above foods, but provides for emergency measures to be put in place where there is risk.
In the case of exports there may be requirements applicable in the country of export.