What are sanitary and phytosanitary requirements?

Goods imported into the EU must meet the EU sanitary and phytosanitary requirements to protect human and animal health.

Official controls

The EU rules on official controls are divided in two Regulations intended to be implemented by competent authorities:

  • Official controls performed to ensure the verification of compliance with feed and food law, animal health and animal welfare rules
  • Specific rules for the organisation of official controls on products of animal origin intended for human consumption

See also:

Food and feed safety

EU rules on food safety are designed to protect human life and health, while rules on animal feed aim to protect the lives and health of both humans and animals.

Imports of foodstuffs must comply with general conditions, which include:

If a problem likely to pose a serious risk to human or animal health or to the environment in a non-EU country, the EU may adopt protective measures, either imposing special conditions or suspending imports of products from all or part of the country concerned.

See also:

Animal health

EU health rules on animals and products of animal origin are designed to protect and improve the health of animals (especially food-producing ones). Imports of animals and animal products must meet the applicable health standards and international obligations, including the following general rules:

  • the exporting country must be on a list of countries authorised to export the category of products concerned to the EU
  • products of animal origin may be imported into the EU only if they come from approved processing establishments in the exporting country
  • all imports of animals and animal products must be accompanied by a health certificate signed by an official veterinarian of the competent authority in the exporting country
  • every consignment is subject to health checks at the border inspection post (BIP) in the EU country of arrival.

If an outbreak of a disease in a non-EU country poses a serious threat to animal or public health, EU authorities may apply temporary protective measures – including suspension of imports from all or part of the country concerned or special requirements on products from that country.

See also:

Plant health

If you export plants and plants products (including fruit and vegetables and wood products) to the EU, you have to make sure that your products comply with the EU legislation on plant health. The EU has laid down phytosanitary requirements to prevent the EU introduction and spread of organisms harmful to plants and plant products. The requirements mainly imply that:

  • Certain commodities are not allowed to be imported into the EU because there are a number of listed organisms (pests); unless certain well established conditions are complied with the country of origin.
  • Specified plants or plant products must be accompanied by a plant health certificate.

Please note that the phytosanitary requirements also apply to wood used to package or wedge food or non-food products (called wood packaging material). So, even if your primary object is to export e.g. fishery products or toys, you have to take into account the phytosanitary requirements if you use wood as materials to packages and ship your products. Processed plant products such as furniture or wooden artefacts do not fall under the scope of these requirements.

General requirements

Exports of plants and plant products to the EU must:

  • be accompanied by a plant-health certificate issued by the relevant competent authorities of the exporting country
  • undergo customs and phytosanitary inspections at the point of entry into the EU (border)
  • be imported into the EU by an importer registered in the official register of an EU country
  • be announced before arrival to the customs office at the point of entry.

If consignments of plants or plant products originating in a non-EU country might pose a risk to the EU, the member countries or the European Commission may take temporary emergency measures.

Additional requirements

Seeds and plant propagating material must comply with specific marketing requirements to ensure health and quality. Specific conditions apply for:

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

The EU has rules protecting plant variety rights providing for intellectual property rights for plant varieties valid throughout the EU. The system is implemented by the Community Plant Variety Office (CPVO).

More information on EU plant health requirements

EU legislation

Plant Health Directive lays down requirements that prevent the introduction of organisms harmful to plants or plant products or their spread in the EU. The Plant Health Directive covers the following products:

  • Plants: Living plants and specified living parts thereof, including seeds1. This category includes:
    • fruit, in the botanical sense, other than that preserved by deep freezing;
    • vegetables, other than those preserved by deep freezing;
    • tubers, corms, bulbs and rhizomes;
    • cut flowers;
    • branches with foliage;
    • cut trees retaining foliage;
    • leaves and foliage;
    • plant tissue cultures;
    • live pollen;
    • bud-wood, cuttings and scions;
  • Plant products: Products of plant origin, unprocessed or having undergone simple preparation in so far as these are not plants.

EU legislation follows International law including:


If you export wild flora or products thereof, you should also take into account the EU requirements on endangered species (also known as CITES requirements). Some species are prohibited to be imported into the EU, other must be accompanied by specific export and/or import certificates.

Public health

The EU's public health rules are designed to protect the EU's population from major health threats. Public health measures include: