The rules and the general law you need to know in order to import food into EU
There are different requirements you need to follow in order to import food in EU so it is necessary to distinguish between food of non-animal origin, food of animal origin and composite products.
But before this, it is important to define what “food” is, according to the EU food law. The article 2 of Regulation n. 178/2002 defines it as “any substance or product, whether processed, partially processed or unprocessed, intended to be, or reasonably expected to be ingested by humans.
‘Food’ includes drink, chewing gum and any substance, including water, intentionally incorporated into the food during its manufacture, preparation or treatment”.
The article 2 provides a list of what this definition shall not include:
(b) live animals unless they are prepared for placing on the market for human consumption;
(c) plants prior to harvesting;
(d) medicinal products;
(f) tobacco and tobacco products;
(g) narcotic or psychotropic substances;
(h) residues and contaminants.
Certain rules, including food hygiene requirements and food laws are laid down in Regulations n. 852/2004 and 178/2002.
Article 11 of Reg. 178/2002 – Compliance or equivalence“Food and feed imported into the Community for placing on the market within the Community shall comply with the relevant requirements of food law or conditions recognised by the Community to be at least equivalent thereto or, where a specific agreement exists between the Community and the exporting country, with requirements contained therein”.
This means that food imported into the EU shall comply with:
- The requirements of food law,
- The conditions recognised by the EU,
- With requirements stated by specific agreement between the EU and the exporting country.
Article 19 of Reg. n. 178/2002 – Responsibilities of food importers
“If a food business operator considers or has reason to believe that a food which it has imported, produced, processed, manufactured or distributed is not in compliance with the food safety requirements, it shall immediately initiate procedures to withdraw the food in question from the market where the food has left the immediate control of that initial food business operator and inform the competent authorities thereof”.
General food requirements
The articles 3 to 6 of Regulation n. 852/2004 provide general food hygiene requirements. In particular, it contains:
- A general obligation to monitor the food safety of products and process under the responsibility of the operator;
- Detailed requirements after primary production:
- Procedures based on the HACCP principles;
- Registration or approval of establishments;
- General hygiene provisions for primary production;
- Microbiological requirements for certain products.
Import procedures for food of non-animal origin
When importing this kind of food the importer has to ensure compliance with the requirements of EU food law or with conditions recognised equivalent. In particular the importer has to consider that:
- Food of non-animal origin may be submitted to controls in accordance with the article 15 paragraph 1 of Regulation n. 882/2004;
- Most of non-animal food can enter the EU using any entry point and without any prenotification or certification
Import procedure for food of animal origin
The Regulation n. 136/2004 and the Directive 97/78/EU provide the procedures for veterinary checks at Community border inspection posts on products imported from third countries. For example:
- Products of animal origin, must be presented at an EU approved border inspection post for being submitted to an import control,
- Prior notification of the physical arrival of the products on the EU territory must be provided to the border inspection post of arrival using the Common Veterinary Entry Document (CVED),
- The consignments must be presented to the border inspection post accompanied by all relevant certificates/documents required in EU legislation,
- Consignments will only be accepted if the products are derived from approved third countries, regions thereof and establishments as appropriate and if veterinary checks had favourable results,
- In certain cases, safeguard measures introducing special import conditions or restrictions may apply,
- The procedures as laid down in Regulation (EC) No 136/2004 are to be followed.
Import procedure for composite products
- Certain composite products have to undergo import controls in border inspection posts as provided for in Regulation n. 28/2012,
- The same Regulation specifies certification requirements taking into consideration animal and public health requirements.