Import of products of animal origin and composite products, the new EU rules

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animal products import

The European Commission has updated the rules on the import into the EU of certain products of animal origin and composite products, as well as on official controls at border control posts.

The supply chains involved – in some cases, with new and burdensome requirements – are those of honey, meat, highly refined products, gelatin capsules and fishery products.

Other innovations concern private certificates for composite products exempt from official controls at border control posts.

1) EU rules for imports of products of animal origin, introduction

The import of products of animal origin from third countries is subject to compliance with the criteria established in Animal Health Law (EU Reg. No 2016/429) e Official Control Regulation (EU) No 2017/625 (1,2). In extreme summary:

– it is possible to import, only from the countries mentioned in the lists drawn up by the European Commission, batches of certain animals, germinal products and products of animal origin for health purposes (including those other than human consumption. See EU Reg. No 2021/404), as well as for certain animals (including insects) and goods intended for human consumption only, as defined in Reg. (EU) No 2021/405 (3,4),

– the general requirements of equivalence of food safety standards between ‘made in EU’ and imported products find specific declination – with regards to health requirements on animals, germinal products and products of animal origin – in the Regulation (EU) 2020/692, (5)

– official controls on the aforementioned animals, materials and goods follow the criteria and procedures indicated in Regulation (EU) 2022/2292, the latest reform of which, as will be seen, introduces new requirements on certain products of animal origin (6,7).

2) Import of products of animal origin, the new rules. Honey in the center

The European Commission – with Delegated Regulation (EU) 2023/2652, which from 18 December 2023 reforms Reg. (EU) 2022/2292 – introduces new requirements with a significant impact on the honey supply chain.

2.1) Honey imported from third countries, a ‘special’ suspect

Imported honey from third countries entered the eye of the storm, in Brussels, with the report ‘From the Hives‘ (2023). Where the European Commission, with its JRC (Joint Research Center) and OLAF (European Anti-Fraud Office), have:

– limited observation to a small number of samples of honey imported from outside the EU only,

– considered the results of sampling carried out in 16 Member States with different methods and often not compliant with the sampling and analysis criteria defined in Official Control Regulation (EU) No 2017/625,

– recognized the inadequacy of some analysis methods and the need to define a harmonized method, following its scientific validation. And yet, on such uncertain grounds, the Commission has

– inferred the non-conformity of a significant portion of the honey batches analyzed. (8)

2.2) Honey and beekeeping products, new requirements for imports from third countries

The report ‘From the Hives‘ was used by Brussels to deduce the need to ‘intensify official controls’ both on honey and on other imported beekeeping products (not even mentioned in the report), pursuant to the OCR and Regulation (EU) 2019/ 1873. (9)

All establishments of third countries where honey and other beekeeping products are produced for human consumption must now be included in a specific list – by 28 November 2024 – for the purposes of importing the respective goods into the European Union. (10)

The new rules on honey and beekeeping products therefore:

– recall the definitions of ‘honey’ and ‘beekeeping products’ subject to the requirements, (11)

– include honey and other beekeeping products in the lists of establishments of third countries or their regions. (12)

2.3) UR lists of establishments in third countries that produce honey, procedures

The compilation of the lists of establishments in third countries that produce honey intended for import into the EU postulates that the non-EU states where such establishments are located take action with the European Commission to provide the information and guarantees set out below: (13)

– communication to the European Commission, without undue delay, of the list of establishments and any updates thereto,

– compliance of the factories with the requirements referred to in Reg. (EU) 2021/405, starting from Hygiene 2 Regulation (EC) No 853/2004, or requirements recognized as equivalent,

– exclusive use, in the aforementioned production sites, of raw materials of animal origin that come from third countries with a residue surveillance plan approved for this category of products, or from EU member states, (14)

– carrying out regular and effective checks by the competent authorities of the third country where the factories are located. With the power to block shipments of products from these factories to the European Union if they do not comply with EU requirements or those of the country of origin, which must be recognized as ‘at least equivalent’.

The recordings must be carried out by the competent authorities of third countries through the electronic systemEstablishment Amendments Lists‘. To this end, the competent authorities must register on the platform TRACES NT and follow the process of updating the establishment lists. (15) The European Commission may request additional information for the purposes of verifying the correctness of the data and compliance with the above requirements.

3) Other foods of animal origin, simplifications

The reform under consideration vice versa it clarifies and simplifies the import procedures for various other foods of animal origin. Tailored to the demands of the lobbies of the sectors concerned, it would be said:

– meats. The official certificates do not provide for cases of exemption (including batches of animals and goods intended for human consumption), while the entry ‘processed meat’ has been replaced by ‘meat products’ (and the term ‘colostrum’ has disappeared) ,

– highly refined products. For the purposes of import into the EU, it is specified that products made in third countries can also use raw materials of EU origin. This formalizes the green light for the delocalization of transformation activities,

– gelatin capsules. Official certificates are no longer required, although these goods fall under the CN (Combined Nomenclature) and HS (Harmonised System) codes for products of animal origin and composite products not obtained from ruminant bones, (16)

– fishery products. The fact that these products come from wild catches has meant that they are exempt from the additional requirements set out in the regulation. (EU) 2022/2292. (17) Although the risks on fishery products are much higher than those on beekeeping products, on both the fronts of food safety (i.e. pathogens, heavy metals) and sustainability (Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, IUU).

4) Import of composite products, updates

Composite products – defined by the European legislator as foods containing ‘products of plant origin and processed products of animal origin‘ – are in turn subject to the import requirements established in the reg. (EU) 2022/2292.

The guide published by the European Commission on 7.11.23 – in the form of a Q&A (18) – helps to understand the rules to be applied to the import of these products, which has encountered various obstacles due to the temporary provisions.

Private certificates, furthermore, they must no longer accompany composite products exempt from official controls to border control posts, without prejudice to express provisions to this effect. (19)

4.1) Composite products, exemptions

Some products long-life compounds and composite products (not subject to transport or storage at controlled temperatures) are exempt from official controls at border control posts, if the established conditions are met. (20)

The exemption is in this case justified by the circumstance that the only ingredients of animal origin contained in the products in question – vitamin D3, enzymes, additives or food flavorings – present negligible risks for human and animal health. (21)

5) Provisional conclusions

The broad delegation conferred by the European legislator to the Commission, in the field of food safety and official controls in the matter, triggered a fragmentation of the rules which moves in the opposite direction to the simplification then called for in the ‘White Paper on Food Safety’ (2000).

Overtime charges imposed on honey producers in third countries, without any objective justification, represent a serious obstacle to international trade. Even more serious as it penalizes peasant beekeepers, the true custodians of biodiversity on a planetary level.

Dario Dongo and Andrea Adelmo Della Penna

Footnotes

(1) Dario Dongo, Marina de Nobili. Animal health, 7 new regulations complete the EU reform. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 1.7.20

(2) Dario Dongo, Giulia Torre. Official public controls, EU regulation 2017/625 is underway. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 18.12.2019

(3) Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2021/404 laying down the lists of third countries, territories or zones thereof from which the entry into the Union of animals, germinal products and products of animal origin is permitted in accordance with Regulation (EU) 2016/429. Current consolidated version 16.11.23 https://foodtimes.eu/2f9bydh3

(4) Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2021/405 of 24 March 2021 laying down the lists of third countries or regions thereof authorized for the entry into the Union of certain animals and goods intended for human consumption in accordance with Regulation (EU) 2017 /625. Current consolidated version 29.3.23 https://foodtimes.eu/2p8p6e66

(5) Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2020/692 supplementing Regulation (EU) 2016/429 as regards rules for entry into the Union, and the movement and handling after entry of consignments of certain animals, germinal products and products of animal origin. Current consolidated version 7.2.23 https://foodtimes.eu/yrrm3r9z

(6) Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2022/2292 supplementing Regulation (EU) 2017/625 with regard to requirements for the entry into the Union of consignments of food-producing animals and certain goods intended for human consumption. Previous consolidated text 3.7.23 https://tinyurl.com/4xbcme9d

(7) Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2023/2652 of 15 September 2023 amending and correcting Delegated Regulation (EU) 2022/2292 with regard to requirements for the entry into the Union of honey, meat, highly refined products, gelatine capsules, fishery products and requirements for private attestation and amending Delegated Regulation (EU) 2021/630 as regards private attestation requirements for composite products exempted from official controls at border control posts https://foodtimes.eu/2p8zrdr4

(8) Dario Dongo. Imported honey from outside the EU, the ambiguous report of the European Commission. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 19.7.23

(9) Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/1873 of 7 November 2019 on the procedures at border control posts for a coordinated performance by competent authorities of intensified official controls on products of animal origin, germinal products, animal by-products and composite products https://foodtimes.eu/2p85pcbn

(10) See Regulation (EU) 2017/625, Article 127(3), points ‘ii’ and ‘iii’

(11) Reference is made to ‘honey within the meaning of Council Directive 2001/110/EC, including as regards the main varieties of honey, and to ‘beekeeping products’ understood as ‘honey, beeswax, bees’ real, propolis or pollen intended for human consumption’

(12) The list of establishments in third countries and their regions can be consulted at https://foodtimes.eu/2xx92fak

(13) Reg. (EU) 2022/2292, article 13, paragraphs 1,2

(14) Reg. (EU) 2022/1644, reg. (EU) 2022/1646

(15) European Commission, DG Sante. Establishment listing https://foodtimes.eu/2p8af4wr

(16) Reg. (EU) 2022/2292, articles 20.1 and 21.1b

(17) Reg. (EU) 2023/2652, recital 4.8

(18) Import of composite products into the EU. Q&A. European Commission. 7.11.23 https://foodtimes.eu/t3c96k3c

(19) The products concerned are long-life composite products containing only processed products of animal origin, or composite products falling within the scope of Regulations (EC) 1332/08, 1333/08 or 1334/08, or which they contain only vitamin D3

(20) Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2021/630 of 16 February 2021 supplementing Regulation (EU) 2017/625 of the European Parliament and of the Council as regards certain categories of goods exempted from official controls at border control posts and amending Commission Decision 2007/275/EC https://foodtimes.eu/mss3ha77

(21) Reg. (EU) 2023/2652, recital 13

(22) Dario Dongo, Alessandra Mei. Honey, fruit juices, jams and marmalades, dehydrated milk. Proposals for the reform of marketing standards in the EU. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 3.5.23

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.

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Graduated in Food Technologies and Biotechnologies, qualified food technologist, he follows the research and development area. With particular regard to European research projects (in Horizon 2020, PRIMA) where the FARE division of WIISE Srl, a benefit company, participates.