SPS Export Health Certificates: What you need to know to clear the border quickly

A major stumbling block in EU-UK trade relationship at present is the SPS control at EU ports and the correct issuance of the right Export Health Certificates. We explain what SPS controls are, what they say in the EU-UK TCA, what you need to be aware of and what the role systems like TRACES, PEACH and IPAFFS play. Join our SPS training on 15 February 2021 to become an SPS Pro, learn how to issue health certificates correctly and use the required IT system efficiently.

What are SPS controls?

Sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures are measures to protect humans, animals, and plants from diseases, pests, or contaminants.

The European Union’s and the UK's legislation lays down a detailed set of these rules to reduce or eliminate the possible risks of animal, plant and public health threats as well as animal and plant diseases being introduced into the EU or UK by goods coming from non-EU/UK countries.

Consequences of SPS import controls

  • Checks are carried out systematically, usually at the first point of entry into the EU or the UK.

  • Checks will be conducted in specific inspection facilities

  • UK agri-food suppliers must have valid health certificates and vice versa.

But isn't there a trade agreement between the EU and the UK

Provisions for agriculture, agri-food, fisheries and forestry sectors are limited in the Agreement. This means that companies will NOT be exempt from sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) border controls. Here is what is says:

Reaffirm and where appropriate go beyond WTO SPS Agreement (SPS + elements) to ensure SPS requirements do not entail disproportionate obstacles to trade;

  • Ensure transparency on SPS requirements;

  • Establish cooperation in areas of common interest;

  • Possibility to adopt emergency and provisional measures.

  • Committee to implement aspects of the Chapter, discuss concerns and review Parties’ SPS measures;

Parties establish unilaterally their import requirements and procedures.

Regulation on official controls in the EU and the UK

This means that practically, the principal EU rule for official controls to be carried out in order to ensure compliance with feed and food law, animal health and animal welfare rules remains to be the Regulation (EC) No 882/2004, as amended. Chapter V of this Regulation (Article 14 to 25) particularly deals with controls on food and feed introduced from third countries.

In the UK, the law is the Official Controls (Animals, Feed and Food, Plant Health Fees etc.) Regulations 2019.

15 February 2021. Book at www.customsmanager.org

What are the rules for plants exiting the UK?

When you export regulated plants and plant products from Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) and Northern Ireland (NI) to other countries, you’ll need to:

  • check whether a phytosanitary certificate (PC) is required by contacting the plant health authority or a plant health inspector in the destination country

  • check if your plants require laboratory testing of samples to ensure they are free from pests and diseases or inspections during the growing season - contact your local plant health inspector to find out if your plants need these tests before exporting.

  • apply for a PC from the relevant UK plant health authority before export.

And what happens at EU import side?

Compulsory plant health checks are carried out on all plants and plant products coming from non-EU countries (listed in Annex V Part B) for:

  • Phytosanitary certificates and documents to ensure the consignment meets EU requirements;

  • Identity to ensure that the consignment corresponds to the certificate;

  • Inspection to ensure the consignment is free from harmful organisms.

Also note that EU countries collect a fee for the documentary, identity and plant health checks to be paid by the importer or their custom's representative.

Identity & plant health checks at the place of destination

Identity and plant health checks (excluding the documentary check) may be carried out at the ‘place of destination’ with the agreement of the plant health authorities responsible for the point of entry and the point of destination. The authorities must have approved an importer beforehand.

Consignments moved to a place of destination for identity and plant health checks must have a 'plant health movement document'. Such material can only be released after a satisfactory plant health check.

Need to bring in plants from the EU to the UK?

You must have a phytosanitary (health) certificate (PC) for almost all plants and living parts of plants, including all seeds for planting, entering Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) from non-EU third countries. You may also need to register as an importer and pre-notify the plant health authority to import certain regulated plants, fruit, vegetables, cut flowers and other objects.


You must register as an importer on PEACH before you start importing plants. After registering you can follow the progress of your consignments through the required checks on the PEACH website. The PEACH system will be changing to a new IT system in early 2021. You will be contacted to register for the new system when this happens. Until then, you should continue to use PEACH for pre-notification.

Back to animals, what is POAO and what do we consider live animals and products of animal origin to be?

  • Aquaculture Products

  • Fresh Meat

  • Game Meat

  • Meat Products

  • Milk & Milk Products

  • Poultry Meat

  • Other Products of Animal Origin

Other products of animal origin for products for human consumption may not benefit from harmonized EU rules.

They include: eggs, honey and royal jelly, snails, frogs' legs, blood and blood products, bone, animal casing, lard and rendered fat and gelatine.

What is an export health certificate and when do I need it?

An export health certificate (EHC) is an official document that confirms your export meets the health requirements of the destination country. You must apply for an EHC if you’re exporting or moving live animals or animal products from Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales to, or through:

  • the EU

  • non-EU countries

  • Northern Ireland (NI)

You’ll also need a transit EHC to transit through an EU country.

Be Aware

  • Please ensure you select the correct certificate for your movement

  • Please take extra care to complete the certificate in the required manner.

  • EHC need to be correctly completed in all its particulars.

  • Unfortunately, errors can easily occur due to extensive legal requirements. Accuracy controls at the EU border are very strict, no errors are permissible at all.

  • Errors cause delays and increase the risk of non-compliance. The result could be the severe hold-up, refusal of entry and destruction of your products.

Getting it wrong should be avoided at all costs

It is, therefore, paramount that you ensure that you check that all EHCs accurate in all particulars and carry the necessary stamps from the official veterinarian at all different places, where required. Please note: Only once you can ascertain that the EHC is duly completed, stamped and signed in all EU languages required, may you wish to give it to the driver for the transport of the SPS goods to the border.

Register for TRACES and IPAFFS

The EU Trade Control and Expert System (TRACES) is an EU online system for health certification and tracking consignments of animals or animal products coming into or out of the UK. Use the Import of products, animals, food and feed system (IPAFFS) to notify about imports of live animals, animal products and high-risk food and feed not of animal origin into Great Britain.

TRACES is required for:

  • the importation of animals, animal products, food and some feed of non-animal origin and plants into the European Union, and,

  • internal EU trade and EU exports of animals and certain animal products

  • Trading in animals or certain animal products from outside the EU, may require you to notify the EU Border Inspection Post (BIP).

  • This is done in TRACES by the mandatory completion of Common Health Entry Documents (CHED).

Use IPAFFS to notify the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) about imports from EU and EEA countries, excluding Iceland. This includes:

  • live animals

  • germinal products

  • products of animal origin (POAO) under safeguard measures

  • high-risk ABP

  • The EEA includes EU countries, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

You do not have to notify APHA of POAO coming into GB from the EU unless there’s a safeguard measure in place until 1 April 2021.

You do not have to notify about high risk food or feed not of animal origin (HRFNAO) coming into GB from the EU until 1 April 2021.


We urge all exporters and importers of SPS goods to understand the necessary requirements and obtain the necessary registrations, licences and permits ahead of time to avoid delays and disruption, as far as not yet done. Training in SPS Export & Import Controls can assist you in fulfilling all requirements and sourcing the right health certificates.

Training on SPS measures on 15 February 2021 (German version on 19 February 2021)

Join our training on 15 February to learn

  • What are SPS regulations?

  • POAO Products

  • Import requirements

  • Export requirements

  • Export Health Certificates

  • What happens at the border?

  • SPS-Agreement of the WTO

  • What about SPS measures in the EU-UK TCA?

  • EU import requirements for food of animal origin

  • UK import requirements for food of animal origin

  • Traces, IPAFFS and other systems explained.

  • Hosted and delivered by Arne Mielken

  • Certificate of Attendance or Completion (Quiz)

  • Full slide deck

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