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Food Safety

Meat products are defined in Annex I of Regulation (EC) No 853/2004 as processed products, resulting from the processing of meat or from the further processing of such processed products, so that the cut surface shows that the product no longer has the characteristics of fresh meat.

General health rules regarding trade or introduction into the European Union (EU) of meat products for human consumption

Introduction of meat products into the EU

Harmonisation ensures that the same requirements for introduction of meat products are applied in all the EU countries, and prevents meat products that may carry infectious diseases that are dangerous for livestock or humans from entering the EU territory.

These principles apply also to consignments which are in transit and/or temporarily stored in the EU. According to the risk they may represent, such meat products are exempt from the public health requirements but must fulfill the animal health requirements.

In general:

  • The non-EU country of origin must be authorised for the introduction of the specific meat product into the EU
  • The establishment of origin must be approved and authorised as an establishment, from which the specific meat product may be introduced into the EU
  • The non-EU country of origin must have an approved residue plan for the relevant animal species

The non-EU country must fulfill certain requirements to be authorised for the introduction of meat products. The most important aspects to be evaluated before authorisation are:

  • the organisation, structure, competence and empowerment of the veterinary services
  • the legislation of the non-EU country
  • the non-EU country's rules on the prevention and control of animal diseases
  • the health status of livestock, other domestic animals and of wildlife
  • the regularity and rapidity of information on infectious animal diseases provided by the non-EU country to the European Commission and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE)
  • the health requirements for the production, manufacture, handling, storage and dispatch of products of animal origin


Before a non-EU country is authorised to introduce meat products into the EU, the EU Commission may carry out an audit to verify that all the criteria provided for under EU legislation are properly fulfilled.

Authorised non-EU countries

Based on the principles contained in EU legislation and the results of the Commission audit, the non-EU country may be added to the list of non-EU countries authorised for the introduction of meat products into the EU, contained in Commission Decision 2007/777/EC laying down lists of non-EU countries, territories or parts thereof authorised for the introduction into the European Union of certain meat products and the veterinary certification requirements. A non-EU country must be listed in that Decision before exporting meat products into the EU.

This Decision contains details of any animal health requirements, the treating requirements for their manufacture and the appropriate veterinary certificate models which are required to ensure that meat products can be introduced safely into the EU. Such veterinary certificate must accompany all consignments of meat product entering the EU.

The specific treatment requirements during the manufacture of meat products to minimise potential disease risks, are laid down for each non-EU country, based on an assessment of the specific disease situation, the animal species and disease agent concerned.

For example, if a non-EU country or zone is already authorised for the introduction of fresh meat without any additional guarantee from a certain species, then, in principle, no additional treatment requirements need to be specified during the manufacture of meat products in order to authorise the introduction into the EU. This is called a non-specific treatment.

On the contrary, if the animal health risks in a non-EU country or zone are considered to be comparatively high, or the non-EU country is not listed for the introduction into the EU of fresh meat, then meat products will only be authorised for the introduction into the EU, if they have undergone an appropriate treatment regime. This ensures that the products have been through a process that minimizes any potential animal health risk. This is called a specific treatment.

Authorised establishments

All imports of meat products into the EU must come from an approved establishment that has been authorised and listed for that purpose. The non-EU countries are responsible to keep the lists of establishments up to date and to inform the Commission of any changes. Lists of establishments in non-EU countries that are authorised to produce meat products are published on the Commissions webpage.

Veterinary certificate

The veterinary certificate is required to ensure that meat products can be introduced safely and must accompany all consignments of meat products entering the EU. The veterinary certificate for processed meat products is laid down in Commission Decision 2007/777/EC.

Public health

Certain public health requirements must be met. For example, a non-EU country is required to have an approved "residue" monitoring plan, and implement certain conditions in relation to TSE.

Animal welfare

Animal welfare requirements at slaughter must be met in accordance with EU legislation.

Border inspection and traceability

Meat products entering the EU are inspected at an EU Border Inspection Post (BIP) - listed in Annex I to Commission Decision 2009/821/EC - where the EU countries' official veterinarians ensure the meat products fulfill all the requirements provided for in the EU legislation. Council Directive 97/78/EC lays down the principles governing the organisation of veterinary checks on products of animal origin entering the EU from non-EU countries.

TRACES (TRAde Control and Expert System) is an informatics system managing import controls at BIPs and ensuring traceability and uniform controls within the EU.

The importers must follow the procedures laid down in Commission Regulation (EC) No 136/2004 before, during and after the entry of the goods of animal origin into the EU via a BIP.


For more information and guidance, please refer to International Affairs - Import Conditions.