How to register for the groupage exports facilitation scheme (GEFS), eligible products, and requirements for exporters and suppliers including inspections.
New rules for January 2021
The UK has left the EU, and the transition period after Brexit comes to an end this year.
This page tells you what you'll need to do from 1 January 2021. It will be updated if anything changes.
You can also read about the transition period.
Exporters and suppliers who export multiple products (known as groupage exports) of animal origin from Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) to, or through, the EU will be able to use GEFS from 1 January 2021.
You’ll also be able to use the GEFS to help move multiple products from Great Britain to, or through, Northern Ireland.
A groupage export is defined as either:
- different commodity types grouped in a single container
- quantities of the same commodity type from more than one source, grouped in the same container
- multiple products of the same commodity type grouped as a single consignment
The GEFS will allow you to use 30 day support attestations (SAs) to provide information to a certifying officer - usually an Official Veterinarian (OV) - about your exports.
You’ll need a Export Health Certificate for each consignment when you’re exporting using GEFS. Products exported using GEFS have to meet the same animal health standards and provide traceability information in order for the product to be certified.
Certifying officers can use this information to complete the export health certificate (EHC) you must get to export animal products.
You must apply to join the GEFS to use the 30 day SAs.
Products you can export
You can use the scheme to help with the export of the following products of animal origin for human consumption:
- composite products
- processed meat products, including gelatine
- meat preparations
- processed milk and matured or processed dairy products
- fish or fisheries products
- eggs or egg products
- frogs’ legs
- snails and bivalve molluscs
You can also use it for processed pet food.
These products must be:
- fully packaged for the final consumer (or to be re-packaged directly at the point of sale for the final consumer)
- produced using animal content from known suppliers
You cannot use the scheme to export:
- fresh meat
- raw milk
- products of animal origin not for human consumption (except processed pet food)
- live animals
- germinal products
Apply to join the scheme
The supplier list should contain information on the suppliers of animal products for export to or through the EU.
You’ll need to provide:
- the registered address for each supplier
- the address from which the supplies are procured or delivered (if different from the registered address)
- details of the supplies from each supplier
- the length of time that each supplier has been providing the commodity or commodities to the exporter
It usually takes 5 working days to process your application.
You’ll be sent an official acceptance, usually by email.
You must keep this acceptance as you may be asked to show it as proof of your membership.
The following details of your organisation will be listed on GOV.UK so certifying officers can check you are currently part of the scheme:
- organisation name
- organisation address
- membership number
Requirements for exporters
As an exporter, to use the scheme you must:
- be listed as a member of the GEFS
- source all animal products in your exports from a documented and stable supplier list
- use suppliers listed with the EU
- make your supplier list available on request from a certifying officer
Your supplier list must contain all your suppliers of animal products that are exported to, or through, the EU
You must ensure that your suppliers:
- arrange inspections with a registered vet - they’ll need knowledge of your premises, processes and supply chain
- agree in advance with you and the vet, what information they need to collect for the inspection
- allow the vet access to their premises and records
- ensure SAs are signed by an individual with authority to sign on behalf of your supplier
- inform you and the vet who signed your SA immediately if there are any changes that affect the SA
You must give a unique reference number to each original SA you use. You’ll need to decide what format the number should be and tell your supplier.
The suggested format is:
- Unique supplier number.
- Sequential number.
- Unique number for vet signing your SA.
For example: 15435/0000001/m159607/2020.
Requirements for suppliers
As a supplier, to provide products to be exported under the scheme, you must:
- arrange required inspections with the vet
- agree with the vet what information they will require and gather the evidence for checks
- provide a suitable representative to complete and sign the supplier section of the SA
- use the 30 day SA template to provide information to the registered vet
- send a completed declaration with all products using an SA
Provide a suitable representative to sign the SA
The SA must be signed by someone who has:
- sufficient knowledge of and responsibility for the production, transport and storage processes
- been authorised in writing by the Managing Director (or equivalent) of the supplier to sign on behalf of the company
You must complete and send the following declaration with all products you’re using an SA for, to the exporter:
“The evidence required to facilitate export of the products in this consignment has been provided in support attestation [insert unique reference number].
No changes have been made that affect the validity of the information provided in this support attestation.”
You’ll have an initial veterinary inspection, followed by regular inspections each time you need a new SA.
Inspections are usually carried out by a registered vet, but the certifying officer may send a certification support officer (CSO). The vet will discuss this with you before the inspection.
You’ll need to agree with the vet and the exporter, before an inspection, what information is required and collect it.
For the initial inspection, you’ll need to provide evidence of a documented and stable supply chain for the previous 6 months. This includes showing:
- accurate supply chain, health, traceability and processing records for your products
- there have been no changes that affect information certified in the EHC within the previous 30 calendar days, for example, a change to heat treatments
- there have been no changes that affect information certified in the EHC in at least 4 of the previous 6 months
The only changes you’re allowed to make are any specifically to meet new export requirements for use after 1 January 2021, or because of disruption caused by COVID-19.
Vets cannot sign supporting attestations until they inspect the evidence of the supply chain.
Who signs the SA
The SA must be signed by both:
- an authorised person representing the supplier
- a registered vet - after they’ve reviewed the evidence
How long the SA is valid
An SA is valid for use from inspection up to and including the expiry date. This is usually 30 calendar days from the inspection date.
Checks on consignments
A certifying officer, usually an OV, will carry out documentary and physical checks for each consignment covered by the EHC, before they sign the EHC.
They will also check you’re on the list of GEFS members.
They must keep copies of evidence or checklists used for at least 2 years and make them available on request. These can be electronic or paper copies.
The certifying officer will use the SA to check the:
- species and origin of animal products
- methods used for processing of animal products
- approval or registration status of the suppliers
They may also check:
- your audit history
- contractual agreements
- Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plans and records for food safety
- Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)
- traceability records
The certifying officer will physically inspect a representative sample of the products to ensure the information provided in the SA is accurate and valid. This can include checking:
- their description matches that declared by the supplier
- they are fully packaged for the final consumer
- any available identification marking matches the description in the SA
They may also carry out:
- a physical inspection of the manufacturing or processing site
- random and risk based spot checks
Removal from the scheme
If you do not comply with the rules, Defra may remove you from the scheme.
If you’re removed from the scheme you will not be able to export consignments using the 30 day SA.
You may re-join the scheme if you can provide evidence that you and your suppliers will comply with the rules.
If you’ve re-joined the scheme, your suppliers will need to have a veterinary inspection. The inspection will check their supply chain for the last 6 months to prove it’s stable and documented. You will not be able to use SAs again until the inspection is complete.
You will be permanently removed from the scheme for serious or repeated failures to follow the rules.
If you’re removed from the scheme and want to appeal, email Defra at GEFS@defra.gov.uk.
Guidance for certifiers
Read about GEFS for certifiers on the APHA Vet Gateway website.
For enquiries or help, contact Defra by emailing GEFS@defra.gov.uk.