Details of the veterinary certificates needed and the procedures at BIPs for the import of live animals and products of animal origin (POAO).
If your business imports live animals and/or products of animal origin (POAO) into the UK, your consignments will be subject to the Community Veterinary Checks Regime. This regime requires that all third country live animal and POAO consignments enter the EU through a designated BIP. In the UK, most BIPs are operated by port health authorities and local authorities. BIPs that only accept products not for human consumption and live animals are operated by the Animal and Plant Health Agency.
All your POAO consignments must be pre-notified to the BIP and presented with the correct documentation, including the health certificate(s) that relate to the specific consignment you are importing. Inspectors at the BIP will check your consignment to ensure that it meets EU import conditions. There is a fee payable for this work.
This guide gives you detailed information on how to get veterinary certificates so that you can import POAO products into the UK from a third country.
Veterinary certificates required
For live animals and POAO to enter the UK, consignments must be accompanied by the appropriate documentation such as veterinary certificates issued by the official veterinarian in the country of origin or import licences. Commercial documents like invoices, packing lists and the Bill of Lading will also be requested.
POAO are goods containing material sourced from an animal, such as meat and dairy products, fish and shellfish, eggs, honey, fur, skin and semen. Other products such as hay and straw that might have come into contact with animals are also covered. For further information you can see the guide on products of animal origin.
Common Veterinary Entry Document (CVED)
In order for your consignment to clear Customs/enter the EU, you need to have a validated CVED. The certificate proves that the checks laid down in EU and UK law have been carried out and that the consignment may be released for free circulation. In the case of products not fit for human consumption it may also specify the address to which the goods must be delivered.
The CVED is used:
- to notify the BIP of the arrival of your consignment in advance of its arrival (Part 1 is completed by the declarant, or person responsible for the consignment)
- to notify the BIP of the arrival of live animals at least 24 hours ahead of their arrival
- to record the results of the BIP checks (Part 2 is completed by the official at the BIP)
- by the customs authority as proof that the consignment has been checked and to show the intended use of the consignment
You must keep the CVED for at least one year from the date of import, as a local authority can request it as proof of the goods’ legal import. You can go to the Food Standards Agency (FSA) website to download a blank CVED and explanatory notes (PDF, 200KB).
You can submit the CVED manually or once registered to use it, electronically via the Trade Control and Expert System (TRACES). See the guide on using TRACES to trade in animals and animal products.
TRACES is a web-based service through which you must apply for ITAHCs for exporting and CVEDs for importing live animals, their products and germplasm. For more information on ITAHCs, see Agriculture, horticulture and fisheries: import and export.
You must have the correct type of documentation for your POAO consignments to avoid fines, the costs of having your goods stored, re-transported or destroyed and/or the risk of legal proceedings.
HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) will not release POAO consignments until they are satisfied that a CVED has been issued and inspection fees have been paid.
Do I need a veterinary certificate?
Not all products derived from animals require a health certificate from their country of origin or a CVED before they can move through customs and into free circulation. Imported wool, for instance, doesn’t require a health certificate but does require a CVED. Highly processed foods such as chocolate products usually don’t require a health certificate or a CVED when entering the UK. A list of products that are subject to veterinary checks are laid down in Annex I to Commission Decision 2007/275/EC. You can download Commission Decision 2007/275/EC from the Europa website (PDF, 118K).
Products containing both processed product of animal origin and products of plant origin are not always covered by the regulations. Read about composite products for human consumption from countries outside the EU on the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) website to help you work out whether the rules apply to your consignment. If you are in any doubt you should seek advice from the Animal and Plant Health Agency or the BIP of import before you order the consignment.
Check with the OVS/OFI at the port of entry you plan to use for clarification about your consignment classification to see if it requires a health certificate. If it does, these can be obtained from your supplier. Also, you must give the port notice of your consignment’s arrival. To find out how to obtain the CVED see the page in this guide on veterinary certificates. In some cases your consignments will also require an import licence to enter the UK.
Read about general import licences for animals and products of animal origin on the Defra website.
Emergency and short-term bans
When disease breaks out in a particular geographic area or country that creates a serious threat to animal or public health, Defra has the right and obligation to ban imports of affected live animals and/or their products, as appropriate, from the affected country or region. These declarations supersede the validity of CVEDs or import licences. You can find the list of current and historic Declarations on the Defra website
Border Inspection Posts
BIPs are operated by local authorities who are responsible for the health controls of goods coming into the UK via seaports and airports. BIPs are based at several locations throughout the UK and employ the OVSs and OFIs who carry out all consignment checks. Their role is to check that imports of all live animals and POAO conform to regulations and are accompanied by the appropriate documentation.
You can find the list of UK BIPs for POAO on the Defra website and access contact details of the BIPs in all EU member states on the Europa website.
Specified Risk Material
The POAO consignments that your business imports into the UK require a veterinary certificate to ensure they aren’t infected with any transmittable diseases. While there are many infections that could be carried by your consignments, one of the most serious is transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. The authority that issues your health certificate should ensure that the consignments are free from all major diseases.
You can browse the index to importer information notices on general conditions and veterinary checks for importing live animals and POAO on the Defra website.
The regulations don’t apply to:
- cosmetic or medicinal products or medical devices, or to their starting materials or intermediate products
- products which aren’t intended for use in human food, animal feed or fertilisers, or their starting materials or intermediate products
- products of animal origin intended for exhibition, teaching, scientific research, special studies or analysis, provided those products aren’t eventually consumed or used by humans or by animals other than those kept for the research projects concerned
- live animals used in or intended for research
It’s your responsibility to ensure that you have the correct documentation to satisfy the OVS/OFI at the BIP and that the products in your consignments as listed above will not be consumed and that adequate safeguards are in place to prevent this from happening by accident.
Handling products of animal origin on arrival from EU member states or third countries
Any of your consignments that contain live animals or POAO originating from another EU member state can usually enter the UK without any further checks. This is due to the harmonisation of the animal health systems in all member states.
Each member state has agreed levels of animal health that apply to all intra-community imports and exports. Health checks at borders can be dispensed with if the consignment meets the required level of animal hygiene before it leaves its original country. Exceptions can arise when there are outbreaks of disease such as Foot and Mouth.
Imports of POAO from third countries, however, are strictly controlled by the issue of veterinary certificates and only then from countries that meet certain criteria - eg the health status of their livestock, other domestic animals and wildlife and membership of the WOAH. Each of your consignments must be accompanied by a health certificate. This should always be issued by the health authority in the country of origin. Generally, paper copies of the original health certificate should accompany each of your consignments.
Before your consignments arrive at a BIP, you must notify the BIP of their arrival by submitting a CVED with Part 1 completed.
So that the consignment can be checked, you’ll need to submit the health certificate and any relevant commercial documentation such as a copy of the invoice and Bill of Lading. Your consignments will then undergo a documentary check that confirms whether:
- pre-notification has taken place
- all documents have been completed properly
- the certification of the consignment is correct
- the products contained within the consignment originate from an approved establishment
- the country is authorised to export and is on the list of countries with an approved residue plan
You can find the list of approved third country establishments on the Europa website.
The OVS or OFI may then carry out checks including:
- the consignment itself will be checked unless it has an official veterinary seal to ensure that it matches the details in the certificate (an identity check).
- in some cases the inspector will also carry out a more detailed examination of the product (a physical check), this may include laboratory analysis.
On completion of the veterinary checks, part 2 of the CVED will be completed and signed by the OVS/OFI. Note that a signed CVED will be required for each consignment, even if the main consignment is split into smaller loads. If the consignment is split down at the BIP, multiple CVEDs will be issued to ensure that each part of the load is covered.
In some cases you’ll need additional analysis, for example if there has been a contaminant or serious problem in a previous consignment from the same source. You’ll have to pay for any checks requested by the OVS. If a commercial store is used while the additional checks are carried out, you’ll have to meet the full cost. It may become necessary to have checks carried out to confirm an OVS finding.
Keep up to date
As the UK import procedure includes a health certificate issued by the exporting third country, it’s important that you keep up to date with the latest developments in that country. You can read the Customer Information Notes for the latest news on animal exports and imports on the Defra website.
You can also go to the FSA website to download a blank CVED and the explanatory notes (PDF, 201KB).
You can find contact details for specific international trade topics on the Defra website.
Declarations at the Border Inspection Post
You must make sure that the POAO your business imports enters the UK via a BIP operated by the Port Health Authority. You can view a list of BIPs for POAO consignments on the Defra website. You can find contact information for local authority run BIPs on the Association of Port Health Authorities website. In Scotland BIPs are supervised by the Scottish Government Rural Payments and Inspections Directorate and in Northern Ireland by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
EU Directive 97/78/EC requires that the person responsible for any consignment that contains POAO present the consignment to the BIP with part 1 of the CVED completed. This is usually done electronically via the TRACES. See the guide on using TRACES to trade in animals and animal products.
Consignments undergo veterinary and paperwork checks at the BIP of entry to ensure that they meet import conditions.
After your consignment has successfully completed veterinary checks and the OVS has endorsed your CVED, your consignment can move through customs. You will need to check local arrangements for transmitting the CVED document to the HMRC National Hub to ensure that HMRC are aware that the veterinary checks have been satisfactorily completed. At some BIPs you or your clearing agent will need to arrange to collect the completed CVED from the BIP and fax it to HMRC.
The POAO consignments that you bring into the UK will also be required to have other supporting documents. See the guide on international trade paperwork: the basics.
Any POAO consignments you import into the UK which also have organic status must be supported with the appropriate certificates. Read the guide on importing organic produce.
Organic imports from non-approved third countries must also have Defra authorisation. Some third countries have approved status which means that they have achieved a high enough level of organic quality to match those in the EU. The current list of approved countries includes: Argentina, Australia, Costa Rica, India, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Switzerland and Tunisia. You can download an introduction to organic certification for importers from the Organic Farmers and Growers website (PDF, 156K).
The right format for your certification
All documents that accompany your POAO must be originals.
The original veterinary health certificates must be stamped, dated and signed by an authorised veterinary surgeon in the non-EU country.
All documents must be in English, or include an English translation.
Only the official who produced a veterinary health certificate is authorised to make any changes to it.
You should also make sure:
- all documents are legible- there is no international agreement that documents must be typed, but this is preferable
- correction fluid is not used in any circumstances, as this could trigger an investigation and delay processing
- any alternations are crossed through but not completely deleted, then stamped and signed by whoever is completing the documentation
You can’t send faxes or photocopies of certificates.
If an original certificate has been lost or destroyed, the competent authority of the exporting country can provide an authenticated copy of the original certificate.
Codex rules allow for replacement certificates to be issued.
Commission advice is that these should be used in limited circumstances such as lost or destroyed certificates and for minor mistakes in the original certificate.
They should not be used for more fundamental problems such as misrepresentation of the consignment.
Replacement certificates should include the reference number of the cancelled certificate.
Letters correcting information on health certificates will not be accepted.
Further guidance on replacement certificates can be found at point 4.2.2 in the transit guidance.
Held and rejected consignments of products of animal origin
Your POAO consignments will be checked at the BIP by the resident OVS or OFI. If your goods fail the inspection, the consignment will have to be either destroyed, or transported outside the EU.
The CVED form that accompanies each of your consignments will show if the goods have been rejected. Consignments that are rejected must be either re-exported or destroyed. If you decide to re-export the consignment this must take place using the same transport method that you originally used to import the goods to the BIP. Also, all other EU BIPs will be notified of the re-export via the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed to prevent the goods being illegally reintroduced into the Community via another port. The re-export must take place within 60 days or you will be charged for the destruction of the consignment.
The consignment can only be re-exported if it doesn’t present a serious animal or public health risk and with the agreement of the OVS/OFI.
Your consignment cannot be removed from the port until the checks have been completed and the CVED issued. If you remove your consignment from the BIP before the checks have been completed it will be dealt with as an illegal import and may be destroyed.
Customs clearance will not be given in respect of your consignment until the veterinary checks have been satisfactorily completed and all fees paid.
Consignments that have already made an intra-community journey can still be detained by the OVS if they believe your consignment poses a health risk, even though it’s been documented as acceptable in another member state. Your goods could be destroyed or permission given to use the goods for another acceptable purpose. In all cases you’ve the right to appeal against a decision via judicial review or a magistrate’s court.
Help and support with veterinary certificates and BIPs
The following organisations can help you with further information and advice concerning products of animal origin.
For advice on import conditions, veterinary checks and BIPs you can contact the Animal and Plant Health Agency at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For information on port health authorities you can call the Association of Port Health Authorities (APHA) Helpline on 08707 444 505.
Animal and Plant Health Agency
03000 200 301 Option 2
FSA Imported Food Helpline
020 7276 8018
020 7276 8829
Organic Food Federation
01760 720 444