Import rules in the European Union for poultry (including hatching eggs) and poultry products (including egg products) are fully harmonised and the European Commission acts as the competent authority on behalf of the 27 EU countries. The EU Commission is the sole negotiating partner for all non-EU countries in questions related to import conditions.
The European Commission's Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety is responsible for food safety in the European Union. Our import rules seek to guarantee that all imports fulfil the same high standards as products from EU countries - not only with respect to hygiene and all aspects of consumer safety but also regarding their animal health status.
Importation of poultry and poultry products into the European Union are subject to veterinary certification which is based on the recognition of the competent authority of the non-EU country under EU legislation.
This formal recognition of the reliability of the competent authority is a pre-requisite for the country to be eligible and authorized for export to the European Union. Legally legitimate and adequately empowered authorities in the exporting country must ensure credible inspection and controls throughout the production chain, which cover all relevant aspects of hygiene, animal health, animal welfare and public health.
All other interested parties and private businesses should contact their competent authority and communicate with the European Union via this channel.
Animals and animal products entering the Community are inspected at a Border Inspection Post (BIP) where EU countries' official veterinarians ensure they fulfil all the requirements provided for in the EU legislation. More information can be found in the Veterinary border control web section.
Animals of a lower Community health status cannot transit the Community.
A general guidance document on EU import requirements for animals and animal products is available in the Import Conditions web section. Here you can find also more general information on importation into the EU.
For more detailed information on importation into the EU of poultry and poultry products, please see the relevant heading below.
Legislation relating to imports
The definition of poultry, hatching eggs, day old chicks, captive birds and poultry products is laid down in the relevant legislation below. Because of the biological differences and differences in disease susceptibility between ratites (e.g. Ostriches, Emu, and Rhea) and other poultry species, the animal health risks from imports of ratites and other poultry are different and this is reflected in the EU legislation.
Council Directive 2009/158/EC lays down the animal health principles on which importation of live poultry is based. This Directive, which has been amended several times, harmonises the rules and establishes the general animal health conditions for the import into the EU of live poultry.
The objective of this harmonisation is to make sure that the same principles for importation of poultry are applied in all the EU countries and prevent poultry from entering EU territory carrying infectious diseases that are dangerous for livestock or humans.
Furthermore, under Directive 2009/158/EC it is possible to regionalise a country. This means that depending on the animal health situation and the guarantees offered by that country, only a part of its territory may be authorised for the importation into the EU of live poultry.
Council Directive 2002/99/EC lays down the animal health requirements for fresh meat. This Directive forms the legal basis for all animal health rules governing the production, processing, distribution and introduction of products of animal origin for human consumption and continues to provide harmonised rules and animal health guarantees for the import into the EU of fresh meat.
Commission Regulation (EC) No. 798/2008 lays down a list of third countries, territories, zones or compartments from which poultry and poultry products may be imported into and transit through the Community and the veterinary certification requirements.
Commission Implementing Decision (EU) No 139/2013 lays down the requirements for the importation into the EU of birds other than poultry (captive birds). It has replaced Commission Regulation (EC) No 318/2007.
Criteria for the authorisation of a third country
Third countries of origin must be on a positive list of eligible countries. The eligibility criteria for the import of poultry and poultry meat are laid down in Commission Regulation (EC) No. 798/2008 and the criteria for the import of captive birds are laid down in Commission Implementing Regulation: Commission Implementing Decision (EU) No 139/2013.
The main criteria are:
- The exporting countries must have a competent veterinary authority which is responsible throughout the food chain. The authorities must be empowered, structured and resourced to implement effective inspection and guarantee credible certification of the relevant veterinary and general hygiene conditions.
- The country or region of origin must fulfil the relevant animal health standards. This implies that the country should be a member of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and should meet that organisation's standards and reporting obligations. In addition, approved countries have to notify within 24 hours outbreaks of avian influenza and Newcastle disease and must submit virus isolates to the EU Community Reference Laboratory.
- Adequate veterinary services must ensure effective enforcement of all necessary health controls.
- Imports are only authorised from approved establishments (e.g. slaughterhouses, cutting plants, game handling establishments, cold stores, meat processing plants), which have been inspected by the competent authority of the exporting country and found to meet EU requirements. The authority provides the necessary guarantees and is obliged to carry out regular inspections.
- The veterinary authorities must have at its disposal one or more laboratories that comply with certain minimum requirements, ensuring sufficient capability for disease diagnosis.
- The national authorities must also guarantee that the relevant hygiene and public health requirements are met. The hygiene legislation contains specific requirements on the structure of establishments, equipment and operational processes for slaughter, cutting, storage and handling of meat. These provisions are aimed at ensuring high standards and at preventing any contamination of the product during processing. More information on the food hygiene legislation can be found in the Food Hygiene web section.
Request for authorisation
The national authority of a third country must submit a formal request to the Directorate General for Health and Food Safety of the European Commission to be authorised for the importation into the EU of the commodities concerned.
After the request is received the Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety will send out a questionnaire to the Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO) of the country applying for authorisation, which should be completed and returned.
This questionnaire (Updated 27-07-2010), once completed, can be submitted together with the initial request.
A monitoring system must be in place to verify compliance with EU requirements on residues of veterinary medicines, pesticides and contaminants. The residue monitoring plan of the exporting country must be submitted and approved by the EU Commission.
More information can be found in the Chemical safety web section.
Audits by the Directorate General for Health and Food Safety
If the evaluation of the residue monitoring plan and the questionnaire is positive, an inspection by the Directorate General for Health and Food Safety and its Directorate for Health and Food Audits and Analysis is carried out to assess the situation on the spot. Such an inspection is necessary to confirm compliance with the above requirements. It is the basis of establishing confidence between the EU Commission and the competent authority of the exporting country.
Authorisation of the exporting country
Based on the results of the inspection and the guarantees given by the exporting country, the Directorate General for Health and Food Safety proposes the authorisation of the country for the animals or products concerned, the specific animal health conditions under which imports from that country will be authorised and the list of approved establishments in the country. These are then discussed with representatives of all EU Member States.
If the Member States have a favourable opinion on the proposal, the European Commission adopts the specific import conditions.
Commission Regulation (EC) No. 798/2008 lays down the veterinary requirements which must be fulfilled when exporting poultry and certain poultry products and a list of those third countries from which imports of these commodities are authorised.
Listing of establishments
Food products of animal origin are allowed into the EU only if they come from an approved establishment in a non-EU country. To apply to become an approved establishment, a company should contact the relevant authorities in their country who then submit an application for approval to the European Commission.
Lists of eligible establishments can be amended at the request of the exporting country and are made available in the Authorised Establishments web section.
The competent authorities of the exporting countries give the guarantee that the establishments conform and operate to EU legislation, when proposing amendments to the establishment list.
Import of captive birds
Commission Implementing Decision (EU) No 139/2013 lays down the requirements for the importation into the EU of birds other than poultry (captive birds).
Import of captive birds (as defined in Art 4 (10) of the Regulation (EU) 2016/429 (Animal Health Law)) is authorised if they come from approved establishments (Updated 20-09-2021) in those third countries that are listed in Annex VI to the Regulation (EU) 2021/404, and if the birds comply with certain requirements and are accompanied by an animal health certificate.
After importation into the EU the birds shall be quarantined for at least 30 days in an approved quarantine facility or centre where they shall be sampled and tested for avian influenza and Newcastle disease. Only after all birds have tested negative for these diseases and have shown no clinical symptoms of any other disease affecting birds can they be released from quarantine. For further information about the relevant import requirements, please see the text of the Regulation.
These rules have been drawn up following the adoption by the EFSA Scientific Panel on Animal Health and Welfare (AHAW) of an opinion on the animal health and welfare risks associated with the import of wild birds other than poultry into the European Union, which identified possible tools and options to reduce any identified animal health risk related to imports of birds other than poultry.
Import of pigeons
- Council Directive 2009/158/EC lays down the requirements for the importation into the EU of "breeding" pigeons that are intended solely for the production of hatching eggs from which pigeons kept for production and/or slaughter will be raised, or those "productive" pigeons which are imported with the intention to the production of meat and/or eggs for consumption.
- This Directive is implemented in Community legislation via Commission Regulation 798/2008. Both the list of authorised third countries, the animal health requirements for such imports and a model health certificate are laid down in that Regulation.
- "Breeding pigeons" must furthermore originate from establishments approved according to Council Directive 2009/158/EC, while certain restrictions apply to the imported pigeons on the holding of destination after their import into the EU.
Pigeons to be released for racing purposes (back to their country of origin)
- Racing pigeons coming from neighbouring third countries that are imported with the intention to be immediately released for racing purposes do not fall under Council Directive 2009/158/EC and they are excluded from the scope of Commission Implementing Decision (EU) No 139/2013 (see Article 2(f)). Until harmonised a certificate is laid down national rules apply.
All other pigeons
- Council Directive 92/65/EEC lays down the requirements for the importation into the EU of all other types of pigeons.
- For the import of such birds, the Directive is implemented by Commission Implementing Decision (EU) No 139/2013. The list of authorised third countries, the list of approved facilities and centres, the animal health requirements for such imports and a model health certificate are laid down in that Regulation.