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Food Imports Legislation

Food imports refer to the movement of products into the EU from countries outside the EU (often referred to as Third Countries).

Checks (controls) are carried out on food entering the EU market to ensure they meet the same high requirements as foods from EU Member States. Controls carried out on food and food contact materials imports include:

  • documentary checks
  • identity checks, and
  • physical checks

Some foods are considered to pose a higher risk to public health, animal health, or the environment in terms of diseases, pests, or contaminants. Additional requirements are in place for these foods to control such risks. The requirements include:

  • additional documentation
  • prior notification before arrival of the food into Ireland

These foods must enter Ireland through a specific entry point called a Border Control Post (BCP).

General food law requirements

When importing foods into the EU, you must comply with the general principles of food law set out in Regulation 178/2002/EC.

This legislation requires that:

  • the food is safe and defines what is meant by unsafe food
  • that food imported into the EU complies with the relevant requirements of food law, or
  • where an agreement exists between the EU and the exporting country, with the agreed requirements which are recognised by the EU as equivalent

Importers who consider, or have reason to believe, that the imported food does not meet food safety requirements, must act immediately to withdraw the food from the market, where it has left their immediate control. They must also inform the competent authorities.

Imports must also comply with the food hygiene requirements of Regulation (EC) No 852/2004. Get more details on general hygiene requirements.

Specific food law requirements

 You will need to comply with specific legislation if you are importing the following types of foods:

  • food of animal origin e.g., meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, dairy products, honey etc. or foods containing these as an ingredient
  • food of non-animal origin e.g., fruit, vegetables, nuts, spices, deserts, bakery products, mineral water, fruit juices, etc.
  • composite products (i.e., food containing both processed ingredients of animal origin and product of non-animal origin) e.g., ham sandwich, pepperoni pizza, spinach and ham quiche.

There are also specific import requirements for certain food contact materials.

Register with TRACES

For certain food products the person responsible for importing the consignment must register with TRACES NT (Trade Control and Expert System).

This is the EU’s online management tool which notifies, certifies and monitors trade in animals, products of animal origin, certain food of non-animal origin, as well as other non food items such as plants and plant products.

Custom Requirements

Revenue is responsible for controlling imports into Ireland for customs purposes and on behalf of other government departments.

All goods imported into Ireland must be declared to Revenue on arrival.

If you import goods from outside the EU, you or your customs agent must complete a customs declaration. This customs declaration must be made electronically using Revenue’s Automated Export System (AES) system.

To trade with countries outside the EU, a business must have an EORI number (Economic Operators Registration and Identification number). This number is unique to a business.

Register for an EORI number online with Revenue – it should only take a few minutes.