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Imports of products

This summary has been archived and will not be updated. See 'ELi toidutarneahela eeskirjade jõustamine' for an updated information about the subject.

Imports of products



Directive 97/78/EC on rules for veterinary checks on products entering the EU from non-EU countries


It lays down rules governing veterinary checks products from non-EU countries so as to protect the health of citizens and animals inside the EU.


The directive applies to imports from non-EU countries of the following:

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

All consignments of products from non-EU countries must go through veterinary checks before they are introduced into the EU. These checks are 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).

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 (places where non-EU products can be introduced free of import duties);
  • the product requirements;
  • the conditions to be met by border inspection posts.

When the products are not to be marketed on the territory of the EU country 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 non-EU country to another non-EU country.
  • makes exemptions 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 (Fo being an algorithm used in heat sterilisation processes);
    • are sent as trade samples;
  • lays down the procedure to be followed where the checks show that the product does not meet the conditions laid down in EU legislation, or where they 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 European Commission may suspend, or set special conditions in respect of, imports coming from part or all of the non-EU country concerned.

If the EU country of destination establishes non-compliance with this directive, it must immediately inform the EU country through which the products were imported. Where there is repeated non-compliance, the competent authority of the EU country of destination must inform the Commission and the other EU countries.

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

Each EU country must draw up a programme for the exchange of officials who carry out checks on products coming from non-EU countries.

The Commission is assisted in its task by the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed.


The directive will be repealed and replaced by Regulation (EU) 2017/625 (Enforcing EU rules for the agri-food chain) with effect from 13 December 2019.


It has applied and had to become law in the EU countries from 1 July 1999.


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 (OJ L 24, 30.1.1998, pp. 9–30)

Successive amendments to Directive 97/78/EC have been incorporated in the original text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.


Regulation (EU) 2017/625 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 March 2017 on official controls and other official activities performed to ensure the application of food and feed law, rules on animal health and welfare, plant health and plant protection products, amending Regulations (EC) No 999/2001, (EC) No 396/2005, (EC) No 1069/2009, (EC) No 1107/2009, (EU) No 1151/2012, (EU) No 652/2014, (EU) 2016/429 and (EU) 2016/2031 of the European Parliament and of the Council, Council Regulations (EC) No 1/2005 and (EC) No 1099/2009 and Council Directives 98/58/EC, 1999/74/EC, 2007/43/EC, 2008/119/EC and 2008/120/EC, and repealing Regulations (EC) No 854/2004 and (EC) No 882/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council, Council Directives 89/608/EEC, 89/662/EEC, 90/425/EEC, 91/496/EEC, 96/23/EC, 96/93/EC and 97/78/EC and Council Decision 92/438/EEC (Official Controls Regulation) (OJ L 95, 7.4.2017, pp. 1-142)

See consolidated version

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 (OJ L 296, 12.11.2009, pp.1-58)

See consolidated version

last update 21.12.2018