Detailed EU legislation lays down the conditions that member states must apply to the production of and trade in products of animal origin, including meat and meat extracts, as well as to imports of these products from third countries. Under harmonised legislation, a series of health and supervisory requirements are applied in the member states to ensure animal products are produced to standards that guarantee the safety of food and the protection of human and animal health. The application of these standards in the member states is monitored by the Food and Veterinary Office of the EU.
It is a requirement that animal products imported from third countries meet standards at least equivalent to those required for production in and trade between member states. All such imports must come from third countries or areas of third countries approved for export to the EU. To be approved as an exporter to the EU, a third country must appear on a list drawn up and updated on the basis of EU audits and guarantees given by the competent authority of the exporting country, have veterinary controls equivalent to those applicable in the EU, particularly in terms of legislation, hygiene conditions, animal health status, veterinary medicines controls, zoonoses controls and other food law, and have in place a residues programme approved by the European Commission.
The animal products must be sourced from establishments that are approved and must bear an EU-approved health mark. Exporting establishments must have standards equivalent to the requirements for EU export establishments, effective control systems and supervision by the competent authorities, and traceability or labelling in accordance with the systems approved by the FVO and accepted and notified to the EU member states.
The FVO carries out inspections to ensure only establishments that meet hygiene and health standards equivalent to those operating within the EU are approved. Where the FVO considers that public health requirements are not being met, an establishment may be removed from the EU approved list. If outbreaks of animal diseases occur in a third country, approval to export to the EU is suspended for the infected regions of the country or the entire country, as appropriate, until the disease risk has been eliminated.
Importers of animal products must be registered with the Department of Agriculture and Food. They are required to give advance notice of importation and, following import, are required to keep records of importation available for inspection by the Department for a period of three years.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House.
Imported animal products must be accompanied by the appropriate commercial documentation showing the country and approval number of the establishment of production and, in the case of meat and meat extracts imported from third countries, a health certificate conforming to the models set down in EU legislation.
While there is free movement for trade within the EU, all consignments from third countries must first be landed at a border inspection post that has been approved by the FVO and must undergo documentary, identity and physical checks. These latter are carried out at frequencies laid down in EU law. In Ireland, BIPs approved for the processing of imports of animal products are located at Dublin Port and Shannon Airport. The FVO carries out monitoring and inspection of each member state's BIPs to ensure the conditions for import of animal products into Europe provided under the harmonised legislation are correctly applied.
Once it has been established that imported animal product has met all the required conditions it is released for free circulation within the Community. Copies of the BIP clearance document and the health certificate must accompany the consignment to its destination. Imports failing to comply with these veterinary control checks may be detained for further examination. If non-compliance is established, they are returned to the exporting country or destroyed.
Where there are concerns with regard to the effectiveness of controls being operated in an approved third country, the Commission, in consultation with the Standing Committee on Animal Health and the Food Chain, may introduce specific controls by means of a safeguard measure to ensure the protection of human and animal health. Safeguard measures limiting or banning the export of animal products from EU countries or regions of countries may also be implemented where, for example, the conditions of an animal disease outbreak could seriously effect production and trade in animal products in the EU.