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Imports of products

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Imports of products

Products from third countries are subject to checks to protect the health of citizens and animals inside the Community. This Directive sets out the legal framework governing these checks.


Council Directive 97/78/EC of 18 December 1997 laying down the principles governing the organisation of veterinary checks on products entering the Community from third countries and repealing Directive 90/675/EC [See amending act(s)].


This Directive applies to imports from third countries, specifically:

  • food products of animal origin;
  • animal feed;
  • plant products which may give rise to the risk of spreading infectious or contagious animal diseases; and
  • by-products not intended for human consumption.

All consignments of products from third countries shall be subjected to veterinary checks required by the Directive before being introduced into the European Union (EU). These checks shall be carried out at a border inspection post by the competent authority under the responsibility of the official veterinarian. The checks include:

  • a documentary check involving verification of the veterinarian certificates and documents or other documents accompanying the consignment;
  • an identity check to ascertain that the products correspond to the information given in the accompanying certificates or documents;
  • a physical check in order to ascertain that the products satisfy the requirements of EU legislation (packaging, temperature, sampling and laboratory testing). and

The Directive also lays down control rules to be followed by the competent authorities for the admission of products to a free zone, free warehouse or customs warehouse, the product requirements and the conditions to be met by the border inspection post.

When the products are not to be marketed on the territory of the Member State that carried out the check, the official veterinarian responsible for the border inspection post issues the competent authorities of the country of destination with all the certificates and statements concerning the products and the results of any laboratory tests.

The Directive sets the conditions for the transport of products from a third country to another third country.

The Directive provides for an exemption for products which:

  • form part of travellers' personal luggage and are intended for their personal consumption;
  • are sent in small consignments to private individuals;
  • are intended for consumption by persons on board means of transport operating internationally;
  • have been subjected to heat treatment in a hermetically sealed container with an Fo value of 3.00 or more;
  • are sent as trade samples.

The Directive lays down the procedure to be followed where the checks show that the product does not meet the conditions laid down in Community legislation, or where such checks reveal an irregularity.

If a phenomenon liable to present a serious threat to animal or public health, or if a serious animal health or public health reason so warrants, the Commission may suspend, or set special conditions in respect of, imports coming from part or all of the third country concerned.

If the Member State of destination establishes non-compliance with this Directive, it shall immediately inform the Member State through which the products were imported. Where repeated non-compliance with this Directive is ascertained, the competent authority of the Member State of destination must inform the Commission and the other Member States.

In the event of non-compliance with legislation on animal feed and foodstuffs, the measures provided for by Regulation (EC) No 882/2004 will apply, particularly the possibility of destroying or returning the products in question, or of subjecting them to any other appropriate treatment.

Each Member State is to draw up a programme for the exchange of officials empowered to carry out checks on products coming from third countries.

The Commission is assisted in its task by the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health.



Entry into force - Date of expiry

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 97/78/EC



OJ L 24 of 30.1.1998

Amending act(s)

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Regulation (EC) No 882/2004



OJ L 165 of 30.4.2004

Directive 2006/104/EC



OJ L 363 of 20.12.2006

Subsequent amendments and corrections to Directive 97/78/EC have been incorporated into the basic text. This consolidated version is for reference purposes only.


Commission Decision 2009/821/EC of 28 September 2009 drawing up a list of approved border inspection posts, laying down certain rules on the inspections carried out by Commission veterinary experts and laying down the veterinary units in Traces [Official Journal L 296 of 12.11.2009].

The Decision lists, for each Member State, all border inspection posts at which veterinary experts from the Commission and Member States verify compliance with Community legislation on the import of animals and animal products.

Amended by:Decision 2010/277 [Official Journal L 121 of 18.5.2010].

See also

Last updated: 29.06.2010