Imports of products of animal origin

Veterinary Residue Controls
Highly Refined Products
Fees and Charges
Products subject to checks

Products of Animal Origin

Imports are controlled through a system of checks aimed at making sure that the products meet European Community standards in terms of animal and public health. This system of checks is referred to as the ‘veterinary checks regime’. Checks must be carried out at a Border Inspection Post (BIP) which has been approved to handle the type of product concerned.   Felixstowe is approved for the import of both refrigerated and ambient-stable products of animal origin both for human consumption and not for human consumption.  

Veterinary Checks

European Council Directive 97/78/EC is the main legislation setting out the principles of veterinary checks on imports. The Products of Animal Origin (Third Country Imports) Regulations as amended adopt the provisions of the directive into UK law.  

Border Inspection Post

The Border Inspection Post at Felixstowe consists of two inspection facilities – the Temperature Controlled Examination Facility (TCEF) which is approved for refrigerated products and animal by-products and the Ambient Temperature Examination Facility (ATEF) which is approved for the examination of animal products for human consumption carried at ambient temperature. 

The facilities are approved by DEFRA and the European Commission as they meet the requirements laid down in Commission Decision 2001/812/EC.  The inspection facilities and procedures and processes in place are regularly audited by inspectors from the European Commission’s Food and Veterinary Office to ensure that the standards are maintained.

The BIP facility at Felixstowe is owned and operated by the Port of Felixstowe who present consignments there on behalf of the importer or person responsible for the load for Suffolk Coastal Port Health Authority to examine.

Products Subject to Import Checks

Commission Decision 2007/275/EC lists the products that are subject to veterinary checks and includes products such as:

Read more about the changes to these requirements which apply from 1 January 2017

Composite products

The rules about composite products (products for human consumption consisting of processed product of animal origin combined with plant material) are complex.  Further guidance on the legislation and import conditions.

Import conditions

Products can be imported only from third countries appearing on lists published by the Commission.  Products must also originate from approved or registered premises and must comply with animal and public health conditions covering both the raw material used and the production process.

Import conditions are laid down in a number of pieces of EU legislation.  The import conditions must be complied with for a consignment to be permitted import and free circulation within the EU or transit across the EU by land.

As a general rule all products of animal origin will require health certification issued by the competent authority of the exporting country containing declarations of compliance with the public and animal health criteria laid down in the import conditions as appropriate.

Consignments of products of animal origin cannot be removed from the BIP until all veterinary checks have been completed and  the required fees have been paid.

Common Veterinary Entry Document

The Common Veterinary Entry Document (CVED) is a document that the importer uses as pre-notification of the import and that the BIP uses to show the outcome of the checks.  The CVED is established in Commission Regulation 136/2004.

After the checks are finished the CVED will be completed by the OVS or fish inspector. The checks that have been carried out will be indicated and the document signed and stamped. The original CVED will be returned to the importer/agent and must, in the case of imports, travel with the load to the first establishment after Customs clearance where it must be retained for 1 year

The CVED is generated and submitted to port health online using the TRACES system.

Documentary Check

All POAO imports are subjected to a documentary check – an assessment of the CVED, public and or animal health certificates and accompanying commercial documentation, which may include bill of lading, invoice and packing list.

Identity Check

Most consignments are also subject to an identity check which involves verification that the product, health marks, stamps and other necessary product and or package information conform to the declaration on the health certificates and EU legislation.

Physical Check

A percentage of consignments must also be physically checked to see that it is fit for its intended purpose. The physical check may include sampling the product to look for pathogenic micro-organisms or illegal contaminants such as veterinary drugs residues or heavy metals.

From time to time, BIPs may be instructed by the European Commission via their national governments, to vary the rate of checking and type of sampling because of known problems in the exporting country.

Physical Checking Frequency

Commission Decision 94/360/EC prescribes the level of physical checks for certain products. In general the minimum number of consignments to be subjected to a physical check are 20% for meat, meat products, fish, fishery products, 50% for poultry meat, honey, dairy products and shellfish, and at between 1% and 10% for most products of animal origin that are not intended for human consumption. For certain products where there is a known health risk the European Commission may prescribe a higher level of checking which may include compulsory sampling.

The European Union has negotiated equivalence agreements with New Zealand and Canada and imports from these countries are subject to lower physical checks and in the case of New Zealand the charges levied for imports are at a reduced level. 

Pre notification

A requirement of the legislation is that importers notify the authority responsible for the BIP of the intended arrival of all products of animal origin and this notification must be made before the consignment is landed. Notification is by submission of a hard copy CVED signed by the person responsible for the load. The TRACES system can be used to generate the CVED.


A standard minimum charge is levied which is set out in legislation.  Where the cost to the authority of administering the veterinary checks is higher, the legislation provides that the actual cost can be levied. Further charges for laboratory examination or analysis may also be levied.

A schedule of the charges for Felixstowe BIP can be viewed here.

The charges must be paid before the consignment can be released for free circulation.

Satisfactory checks

On satisfactory completion of the veterinary checks at the BIP, consignments may be released for free circulation into the Community. Consignments may also be released for purposes other than human consumption or removal under customs control

Unsatisfactory Checks

Products failing to satisfy import conditions may be re-exported to a country outside the EEA. However, if the consignment is deemed to be a risk to human/ or animal health, or where the person responsible for the consignment fails to comply with a direction to re-export, it must instead be sent for destruction by incineration.

All costs for destruction are to be met by the person responsible for the consignment.

Where, following veterinary checks on a product, a notice is served requiring that product is to be re-exported or destroyed, an appeal may usually be brought to a Magistrates Court. This right must be exercised within one month of the notice being served.

Judicial Review is still the only form of redress available for some enforcement notices under the Regulations. On receipt of a notice, recipients are advised to contact their legal advisers if they wish to appeal against the notice.

Smuggled Imports

The responsibility for enforcing the controls in relation to illegal imports at ports has been assigned to UKBA.  Local Authorities are responsible for this activity inland.

Personal Imports

Details of the rules on personal imports for products of animal origin on GOV.UK.


European Commission web guide on Veterinary Border Controls


The Trade in Animals and Related Products Regulations 2011 SI 2011 No.1197

More Information

Defra are the lead department for veterinary checks and are responsible for the policy and legislation for POAO imports, It is the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) who look after the delivery of checks at Border Inspection Posts.  Advice and guidance on importing and exporting animal products can be found on GOV.UK. Details on many of the requirements can be found in the OVS notes which are issued to the BIPS.  The BIP Compendium provides a comprehensive list of applicable legislation

The FSA website is a good source of information on imported food for both commercial and personal imports.  The FSA have also produced an interactive system called GRAIL which will search through all the legislation and guidance and identify which relates to the product you are enquiring about.  The system will provide information on food that is the responsibility of the Food Standards Agency, that is high risk food and feed and POAO controls on fish. 

The EU Commission also has a website dedicated to veterinary checks which contains a wealth of information and answers to frequently asked questions.

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Related Web Links

  • Animal Health
    Animal Health, now part of the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) are a government agency responsible for overseeing the delivery of POAO controls at BIPs.

    General enquiries about imports of POAO should be directed to their helpline:

    General enquiries email:
    Telephone: 01228 403 600

  • Border Inspection Post Manual - Veterinary Checks
    The BIP Manual provides information and guidance on the application of veterinary checks. It is aimed at enforcement officers.
  • Commission Regulation (EC) No 178/2002
    Overarching Council Regulation laying down general principles of food law. Sits above the Regulation 882/2004 and Commission Decision 97/78(EC)
  • Customs Tariff/Commodity Codes

    CN codes can be checked online using the trade tariff on the website.

  • Defra - import of animal products

    Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) - are the government department responsible for policy in relation to imports animal products.  APHA provide import guidance to trade on their behalf.

  • Defra Animal Health (Personal Imports)

    The site contains guidance on products that travellers can bring back for personal use.

  • EU Food Safety Website
    The European Commission generates almost all of the legislation that is applied to imports to ensure smooth functioning of the internal market and as part of their commitment to make Europe's citizens healthier and safer. They have their own website Europa where they provide information about EU policy.
  • EU Law EUR-Lex search
    The European Commission generates almost all of the legislation that is applied to imports to ensure smooth functioning of the internal market and as part of their commitment to make Europe's citizens healthier and safer. They have their own website Europa  where they publish legislation. New legislation is published daily in the Official Journal.
  • Food Standards Agency - Imported Food Information
    The Foods Standards Agency (FSA) lead on policy affecting imports of fish and other food safety and standards controls. The Imported Food Branch provide a helpline for general enquiries about food imports who can be contacted by email
  • Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) Clearances

    HMRC Her Majesties Revenue and Customs are responsible for ensuring that controlled consignments from third countries have undergone border checks and the charges have been paid before releasing consignments for import.

  • Sign up for POAO updates from Defra
    Request Defra updates on changes to rules on imports and EU trade in animals and animal products [Link opens GOV.UK site]