Goods from Third Countries (Non-EU countries) imported into the European Union are subject to import formalities. For food, food contact materials and feed, official controls on import (Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) checks) are included in the import formalities. Certain categories of animals and goods entering the EU pose a higher risk to public health, animal health, or the environment in terms of diseases, pests, or contaminants. These goods have their SPS checks performed at Border Control Posts (BCPs).
BCPs are designated entry points to the EU market through which animals and consignments of food and food contact materials that are subject to increased SPS checks must enter the EU. The BCPs for Ireland are Dublin Seaport, Rosslare Europort, Dublin airport and Shannon airport. For more information about Border Control Posts, please see here.
Products that do not have to present at a BCP for their official controls on entry to the EU can be imported through any entry point including entry points that are not designated BCP’s, such as Cork Port and Cork Airport.
Union vs Non-Union Goods
The terms “Union” and “Non-Union” goods are a customs status given to all goods. For further information on Union Status, see here. Goods from all third countries (outside of the EU), including the United Kingdom, entering the EU are considered Non-Union goods until they are put into free circulation by customs, i.e., all of the import formalities for the imported goods have been complied with and all duties and taxes have been paid or secured.
The movement of Non-Union goods within the European Union is restricted, and these goods cannot be placed on the EU market until they obtain the customs status of Union goods. Changing the status of goods from Non-Union to Union comes under customs rules.
“Union goods” are goods which:
• originate in the European Union, or
• have been imported from a third country and have been put into free circulation in the Union, or
• have been manufactured in the European Union from materials or parts imported from a third country (provided the imported materials or parts are in free circulation).
“Non-Union goods” are goods from outside the European Union on which no duty has been paid and no import formalities have been fulfilled.
How to change the status of goods from “Non-Union” to “Union”:
At Point of Entry to the Union, Non-Union goods go through a series of inspections and checks, e.g., Sanitary and Phytosanitary checks (SPS checks) or official controls, which are EU controls to protect animal, plant and public health. Once the goods have passed all import formalities (the necessary SPS checks and custom controls), they are deemed to be Union goods and as Union goods they can be freely circulated across the EU.
There are two scenarios where Non-Union goods can become Union goods:
- The goods are imported directly into the EU country of destination (e.g., the goods from a third country go directly to Ireland). This means the country of destination is also the Point of Entry to the Union. All import formalities are done in Ireland. Once goods have passed all import formalities (SPS checks and customs controls), they are considered Union goods and can be freely circulated across the EU.
- The goods enter a Member State that is not the country of destination (goods arrive first into another EU country, e.g., France before they are delivered to your business in Ireland). This means that the Point of Entry to the Union is not the country of destination. SPS checks are carried out in the Member State of entry (i.e., France) with the remaining import formalities finalised in the Member State of destination (i.e., Ireland). The goods must move under the customs transit procedure to the point of destination where all remaining import formalities are finalised. Once all import formalities are complete, the goods obtain Union status and can be freely circulated across the EU.
Union goods can move freely between EU Member States and can move through a third country, including the United Kingdom, to the Member State of destination, provided the goods remain under Customs supervision by moving under the customs transit procedure.
Can goods lose their “Union” status?
Yes. If Union goods status enter or are circulated in any third country, including Great Britain, and they have not been under customs transit or customs supervision, the goods lose their Union status. This means that if these goods are reimported into an EU Member State, they are treated as Non-Union goods and are subject to all import formalities including official controls at import (SPS checks).
Can “Union” Goods claim to be of EU Origin?
While all goods that are placed on the market for sale or supply in the EU are Union goods, this does not mean that the goods are of EU origin. The goods retain the origin of the third country from which they were imported unless they are substantially transformed in the EU thereby obtaining EU origin.
More information on customs procedures for “Union” and “Non-Union” goods is available here.
Country of Origin and Importing Foods of Non-Animal Origin under Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/1793
The Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/17931, as amended, outlines the rules on the temporary increase of official controls and emergency measures at the point of entry into the Union of certain goods from certain third countries.
This means that certain foods from certain countries, as listed in the regulation, are subject to increased controls. A list of foods and their country of origin subject to additional controls can be found in the legislation.
In relation to this regulation, ‘country of origin’ refers to:
(i) the country where the goods originate from, were grown, harvested or produced, where food or feed is listed in the Annexes [of Regulation (EU) 2019/1793 as amended] due to a possible risk of contamination by mycotoxins, including aflatoxins, or by plant toxins, or due to possible non-compliance with maximum allowed levels of pesticide residues.
(ii) the country where the goods were produced, manufactured, or wrapped where food is listed in the Annexes [of Regulation (EU) 2019/1793, as amended] due to the risk of the presence of Salmonella or due to other hazards than those specified in point (i).
(Regulation (EU) 2019/1793, Article 2(1)(c)).
How the country of origin definition is applied:
Example 1, application of Part (i) of the definition of country of origin:
If peanuts that are grown and harvested in a third country listed in the regulation, e.g., Bolivia, are imported into the European Union, the ‘country of origin’ is Bolivia. In this case, Bolivia is the country where the goods were grown and harvested.
If peanuts with an origin of Bolivia are imported into another third country, including the UK, and are repackaged there before being imported into the European Union, the ‘country of origin’ is Bolivia as this is the country where the peanuts were grown and harvested.
If peanuts with an origin of Bolivia are imported into another third country, including the UK, where they are made into a peanut product, such as peanut butter, the country of origin of the peanut butter is the country in which the peanut butter was produced.
Example 2, application of Part (ii) of the definition of country of origin:
Sweet peppers (crushed or ground) from China are listed in Annex I of the Regulation due to a Salmonella risk. Therefore, if sweet peppers grown or harvested in China are crushed or ground in China and then imported into the EU, the ‘country of origin’ is China.
Additionally, sweet peppers grown or harvested in a third country not listed in the Annexes of Regulation (EU) 2019/1793, e.g., Mexico, are imported into China and are crushed or ground and/or wrapped in China, then the ‘country of origin’ is declared as China, as it comes under part (ii) of the definition due to the risk of Salmonella.
1. Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/1793 is updated every 6 months and is available here (https://eur-lex.europa.eu/eli/reg_impl/2019/1793/oj). It is your responsibility to ensure you are using the most recent version of the Regulation.