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Food Imports and Exports

  • Introduction

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

    Intra-community trade or ‘trade' refers solely to the movement of products between EU Member States. 

    When importing foods into the EU a food business operator must comply with the general food principles of food law set out in Regulation 178/2002/EC.  Specific legislation governing imports of foodstuffs is generally based on whether the foodstuff is of animal origin or not and can be grouped as : 

    • Food containing animal products e.g.  meat, meat products, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, dairy products, honey etc  
    • Food that has no animal content e.g. fruit, vegetables, nuts,  spices, certain bakery products, mineral water, fruit juices etc  
    • Composite products ( i.e. food containing both processed ingredients of animal origin and ingredients of plant origin) 

    Regulation 178/2002/EC which lays down the general principles and requirements of food law and procedures in matters of food safety requires in Articles 11 to 13 that food imported into the European Union  must comply with the relevant requirements of food law or conditions recognised at least equivalent thereto or, where an agreement exists between the Community and the exporting country, with requirements contained therein". All imports therefore must fulfil the same high standards as products from EU Member States. Article 19 of this Regulation also places a responsibility on food importers where they consider or have reason to believe that a food which they have imported is not in compliance with food safety requirements, they must 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. 

    Imports of food products must comply with all EU food legislation relevant to the product in question. Fuller details on particular legislation can be viewed here. 

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    Last reviewed: 16/9/2013

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