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Food Hygiene - Existing Community Rules

Community legislation covers the production and placing on the market of products of animal origin intended for human consumption. 'Placing on the market' means the holding of food in the Community for the purpose of sale, including offering for sale, or any other form of transfer, whether free of charge or not, and the sale, distribution or other forms of transfer. In this context, "trade" refers solely to the movement of such products between European Union (EU) Member States. Imports refer solely to the movement of such products into the Member States from third countries outside the EU.

When produced in the Community and traded between Member States, products of animal origin intended for human consumption must fulfil the public health requirements laid down in a number of Council Directives.

These Directives, which have been amended several times, harmonise the rules for placing such products on the market and establish the public health guarantees needed for marketing them.

  • The objective of this harmonisation is to guarantee that the same requirements are applied for marketing throughout the Member States to ensure the safe and free circulation of the products throughout the EU;
  • The Directives lay down precise rules to be respected for the production of these products to ensure that only foodstuffs not harmful to human health are placed on the market;
  • Traceability is of prime importance for consumer protection, as food scares in the past have demonstrated. Regulation EC N° 178/2002 (applicable from 1 January 2005) sets out the general provisions for identifying suppliers at every stage of production;
  • Because there are no border controls for movements between Member States, non-discriminatory spot checks are carried out at the point of origin and at the destination according to Directive N° 89/662/EEC to ensure that consignments are in compliance with the guarantees in relation to public health.

When imported, products of animal origin must in general fulfil both animal health and public health requirements laid down in Community legislation. This legislation imposes a series of health and supervisory requirements designed to ensure that products meet standards at least equivalent to those required for production in and trade between Member States. In a few areas where no harmonising legislation exists, third countries should make contact with Member State authorities to obtain information on national import conditions.

From a general point of view, to be imported, a product of animal origin intended for human consumption must come from:

  • a third country or part of a third country appearing on a list of countries authorised to export to the EU; or
  • an establishment that has been placed on a list of approved establishments to export to the EU.

It must be accompanied by a harmonised health certificate.

More information on the procedure to be followed can be found in this document: General guidancepdf for third country authorities on the procedures to be followed when importing live animals and animal products into the European Union.

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