EU customs code

Before reaching Europe your goods must meet the EU requirements to protect human and animal health, the environment and consumers rights. Check the requirements applying to your product at My Export.

Food and Feed Safety

The EU's existing legislation on food safety aims to ensure high protection of human health and consumers' interests in relation to food. The EU's rules on animal feed aim for the protection of human and animal health and environmental protection. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) provides the European Commission with scientific advice on matters with direct or indirect impact on food safety. It is a separate legal entity, independent from the EU institutions. Imports of foodstuffs must comply with general conditions and measures, which include:

  • The general principles and requirements of food law and stages of food/feed production and distribution described in Regulation (EC) No 178/2002  of the European Parliament and of the Council.
  • General foodstuffs hygiene rules and hygiene specifications for food of animal origin according to Regulations (EC) No 852/2004 and No 853/2004 of the European Parliament and Council.
  • Measures concerning the presence of residues, pesticides, veterinary medicines and contaminants in and on food.
  • For traceability, EU importers of food and feed products must identify and register from whom the product was exported in the country of origin.

Imports of certain foodstuffs must also comply with special conditions and rules, including:

  • Rules regarding Genetically Modified food and feed, bioproteins and novel food.
  • Rules on special food products (e.g. mineral waters, cocoa, quick-frozen food) and foodstuffs intended to satisfy particular nutritional requirements of specific groups of the population (e.g. foods for infants).
  • Specific marketing and labelling requirements for feed materials, compound feedingstuffs, and feedingstuffs intended for particular nutritional purposes.
  • General conditions regarding materials and articles intended to come into contact with foodstuff.
  • Official controls to ensure compliance with the mentioned EU provisions of foodstuffs and feedingstuffs.

The European Commission may immediately, depending on the seriousness of the situation, adopt protective measures if there is a problem that can cause a serious risk to:

  • human health
  • animal health
  • the environment
  • the territory of a third country

These measures may include creating special conditions or suspending imports from all or part of the third country concerned.
More information can be found at DG Health and Food Safety

Animal Health

The EU health legislation on animals and products of animal origin aims to protect and raise the health status of animals (in particular food-producing animals).

Animals and products of animal origin must comply with a number of general rules, which include:

  • The exporting third country must be on a positive list of eligible and authorised exporters for the concerned category of products or animals.
  • Products of animal origin can only be imported into the EU if they come from approved processing establishments of the exporting third country.
  • Health certificates signed by an official veterinarian of the competent authority of the exporting third country will accompany imports of animals and animal products.
  • Each consignment is subject to health controls at the designated Member State Border Inspection Post.

The European Commission may immediately, depending on the seriousness of the situation, adopt protective measures if there is a problem that can cause a serious risk to:

  • human health
  • animal health
  • the environment
  • the territory of a third country

These measures may include creating special conditions or suspending imports from all or part of the third country concerned.

More information can be found at DG Health and Food Safety:

Plant Health

The plant health measures aim to prevent the introduction and/or spread of pests and organisms harmful to plants or plant products across the EU.

The basic legislation in this field is established by Council Directive 2000/29/EC. It is based on the principles of the International Plant Protection Convention  and the World Trade Organisation Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures.

Imports of plants and plant products must comply with phytosanitary measures that require the goods to:

  • be accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate, issued by the authorities of the exporting country
  • undergo customs inspections at the Border Inspection Post at the point of entry into the EU
  • be imported into the EU by a registered importer with a Member State's official register
  • be notified to the customs office before arrival to the point of entry

Member States or the EU itself might take temporary emergency measures if plants or plant products from third countries pose a risk to EU territory.

Seeds and plant propagating material entering the EU market must comply with specific marketing requirements for health and quality. The EU legislation establishes specific conditions for:

  • oil and fibre plants
  • cereals
  • vegetables
  • seed potatoes
  • beet seed
  • vines
  • fruit plants
  • fodder plants
  • ornamental plants
  • forests

EU legislation has established a system for the protection of plant variety rights. This means a breeder may be granted a single intellectual property right operative throughout the European Union. The Community Plant Variety Office (CPVO) implements and applies this system.

More information on plant health and biosafety can be found at DG Health and Food Safety.

Public Health

The public health framework contains measures taken at the Member State and EU level designed to confront health threats, including:

Council Regulation (EC) No 111/2005 establishes rules for monitoring trade in drug precursors to avoid the illicit use of chemicals in the manufacture of narcotics and psychotropic substances.

More information on chemical regulations can be found at DG GROW

Drug precursors control at DG Taxation and Customs Union

Marketing standards for agricultural and fishery products

The EU's marketing standards are mainly for agricultural and fishery products supplied fresh to the consumer to guarantee the same level of quality for all products placed on the EU market.

Council Regulation (EU) No 1308/2013 establishes a common marketing system for the agricultural products that may vary in order to take account of the particularities of each product, such as:

  • freshness
  • size
  • quality
  • presentation
  • tolerances
  • others

Council Regulation (EC) No 2406/96 lays down common marketing standards for certain fishery products. The marketing standards may cover classification by:

  • quality
  • size or weight
  • packing
  • presentation
  • labelling

Member States are responsible for ensuring that the imported agricultural and fishery products comply with these marketing standards through documental and/or physical inspections.

Information specific to your product can be found at [LINK]
More information on marketing standards can be found at DG Agriculture and Rural Development

Products from organic production

Organic production is a voluntary scheme aimed at guaranteeing that agricultural products are produced in accordance with certain production methods laid down by Council Regulation (EC) No 834/2007 on Organic Farming.

The aim of organic standards is the integration of environmental conservation into agriculture and the promotion of quality products.

Products following EU organic farming rules can use the EU organic farming logo, which assures consumers that the product has been manufactured according to organic standards.

This is only allowed after products follow a strict and mandatory certification process.

More information on organic production can be found at DG Agriculture and Rural Development

Product Safety

The safety of consumer products is assured by a wide range of sectorial legislation and is complemented by the Directive 2001/95/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on the General Product Safety.

Under these legislations manufacturers and distributors are obliged to:

  • supply products that comply with the general safety requirements
  •  inform consumers of risks that a product might pose and the precautions they should take
  • notify the appointed authorities in Member States if they discover that a product is dangerous and cooperate with them on the action taken to avoid the risks for consumers

Market surveillance and enforcement are carried out by the competent authorities appointed in the Member States with the support of certain mechanisms established at EU level. The principal mechanism in Europe is the Rapid exchange of information between Member States and the European Commission on products causing serious risks, called RAPEX-System.

The General Product Safety Directive applies in a complementary way to products covered by specific sector legislation such as:

In addition, the General Product Safety Directive is complemented by the Council Directive 87/357/EEC concerning products which could be mistaken for foodstuffs and so endanger the health or safety of consumers.

This Directive applies to products which are not edible but could easily be confused with foodstuffs by their appearance, smell or packaging. Member States must take all the necessary measures to prohibit the marketing, import and manufacture of such products. Checks must be carried out to ensure that no such products are marketed. If a Member State bans a product under the terms of this Directive it must inform the European Commission and provide the details needed to inform the other Member States.

More information can be found at DG Justice and Consumers:

Technical Standardisation

The main purpose of technical harmonisation within the EU is to remove technical barriers which may result from differing technical standards in the Member States.

The Council Resolution 85/C 136/01 details the main objectives for technical harmonisation and standards:

  • the definition of general rules which are applicable to sectors or families of products (mandatory essential requirements), as well as types of hazard
  • the setting up of appropriate conformity assessment procedures
  • the introduction of European Conformity (CE) marking

New Approach Directives set down general health and safety requirements, as well as specifications for meeting these requirements.

Global Approach Directives lay down the guiding principles for Community policy on conformity assessment procedures (the system and responsibilities for testing and certification and, where applicable, accredited test laboratories).

However, certain groups of products are still covered by Old Approach Directives: 

  • foodstuffs
  • motor vehicles
  • chemicals
  • cosmetics
  • detergents
  • biocides
  • pharmaceutical sectors

New approach principles:

  • The harmonisation gives the essential product requirements when they are placed on the EU market (such as health, safety, consumer protection and environmental protection)
  • The application of harmonised or other standards remains voluntary for manufacturers; however products manufactured in compliance with harmonised standards, benefit from a presumption of conformity with the corresponding essential requirements
  • Each Member State has designated bodies in charge of the conformity assessment procedures when a third party is required.

More information can be found at DG International Cooperation and Development

Global approach and Conformity assessment

The Global approach establishes procedures to assess the conformity of products to requirements listed in the technical harmonisation directives.

Conformity assessment is either carried out by the manufacturer or third party and relates to the design phase of products, their production phase or both.

There are eight different procedures (modules) which cover the two phases in a variety of ways: internal control of production, full quality assurance, etc.

Council Resolution 90/C 10/01 sets up guiding principles for a reliable EU policy on conformity assessment, such as:

  • Generalised use of the European standards relating to quality assurance
  • Mutual recognition agreements between the EU and third countries, which have a similar level of technical development and approach on conformity assessment

The CE marking indicates that the product complies with the essential requirements of all applicable directives and experienced the appropriate conformity assessment procedure.

The CE marking:

  • consists of the "CE" marking and the identification number of the notified body involved in the production control phase when a third party is required
  • is affixed to the product, to its packaging or to the accompanying document
  • enables the product in question to be placed on the EU market

Market surveillance

Each Member State establishes the authorities responsible for checking that products placed on the market meet the requirements and that the use of the CE marking is correct.

Manufacturers in third countries must appoint an authorised representative established in the EU to act on their behalf. They are responsible for designing and manufacturing a product in accordance with all applicable Directives and for performing the required conformity assessment procedure.

Customs authorities shall suspend the release of goods which may pose a serious risk to health or safety or which are not accompanied by the required documentation.

New Internal Market Package for Goods

A New Legal Framework for the modernisation of the New Approach has been adopted in the following package of measures:

  • Regulation (EC) No 764/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the application of certain national technical rules to products (applicable from 13 May 2009)
  • Regulation (EC) No 765/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council onthe requirements for accreditation and market surveillance  (applicable from 1 January 2010)
  • Decision 768/2008/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on a common framework for the marketing of products

This new proposal aims at removing the remaining obstacles to free circulation of certified safe products. This means market surveillance structures as well as testing, certification procedures, as well as inspection bodies accreditation shall be reinforced.

More information can be found at DG Enterprise and Industry


Packaging marketed within the EU must comply with the general requirements which aim at protecting the environment, as well as with the specific provisions designed to prevent any risk to the health of consumers, for example:

  • Recycling materials, packaging waste prevention,
  • Size, nominal quantities and capacities,
  • Composition and constituents of materials intended to come into contact with foodstuffs

Hence, these types of products are affected by:

  • General requirements related to packaging and packaging waste, established in Directive 94/62/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council
  • Specific provisions related to package sizing, established in Council Directive 75/106/EEC and Council Directive 80/232/EEC
  • Specific rules on nominal quantities for prepacked products, established in Directive 2007/45/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council
  • Special rules for materials and articles intended to come into contact with foodstuffs, established in Regulation (EC) No 1935/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council

Besides these mandatory provisions, imports into the EU of packaging made of wood and other plant products may be subject to phytosanitary measures established by Council Directive 2000/29/EC

In relation to wood packaging, the provisions introduced by Commission Directive 2004/102/EC establish that wood packages of any type shall be prepared by an approved treatment specified in Annex I to FAO International Standard for Phytosanitary Measures No. 15 and shall bear the corresponding mark as specified in Annex II.

More information can be found at DG Health and Food Safety