What controls on food at EU borders?

The Coldiretti parade at Brenner, on 8 and 9 April 2024, raised some doubts about the effectiveness of official controls on food entering the borders of the European Union. (1) In order to dispel any doubt, it seems appropriate to recall the system of current rules.

1) Official Controls Regulation (EU) No 2017/625

Regulation (EU) 2017/625 - 'on official controls and other official activities carried out to ensure the application of legislation on food and feed, rules on animal health and welfare, plant health and plant protection products' (2,3) – dedicates specific chapters to official controls on animals and goods entering the Union (articles 47-64).

The objective of border controls is to verify the compliance of plants, animals and their reproductive materials, as well as incoming food and feed, with current EU regulations. The competent authorities – identified by individual Member States and audited by the Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) of the European Commission (4) – carry out periodic official operations based on risk and with appropriate frequency.

2) Adequate frequency of checks

The frequency appropriateness of official controls is determined by the competent authorities on the basis of predefined criteria. These criteria must take into account, among other things, any information accompanying the animals and goods and must not mislead consumers, 'in particular relating to the nature, identity, properties, composition, quantity, shelf life, country of origin or place of provenance, method of manufacture or production'.

3) Unscheduled checks

In addition to the controls scheduled, the competent authorities (present at border control posts and other points of entry into the Union) may carry out a verification whenever they have reason to believe that their entry into the Union may pose a health risk to humans, for animals and plants or for animal welfare or, in relation to GMOs and plant protection products, also for the environment.

4) Control points

Official controls in narration they are carried out in the places correctly identified within the EU customs territory. That is to say, depending on the case:

  • the point of entry into the Union
  • the point of release for free circulation in the Union
  • the warehouses and premises of the operator responsible for the consignment
  • the place of destination.

5) Control mode

The methods of official controls always include a documentary check, as well as identity checks and physical checks based on the health risks assessed. In cases of suspected non-compliance with the regulations of batches of animals and goods, the competent authorities carry out official checks to confirm the suspicion or demonstrate its unfoundedness, ordering the official blocking of the batches pending the results.

If the authorities competent authorities have reason to suspect fraudulent or deceptive practices by an operator responsible for the consignment, or if official controls lead to the belief that the legislation has been seriously or repeatedly infringed, they shall, where appropriate, intensify official controls on consignments of the same origin or use.

In case of confirmed non-compliance the competent authorities shall officially block the consignment of animals or goods and refuse entry into the Union by ordering without delay the operator responsible for the consignment either to destroy the consignment or to return the consignment outside the Union. These measures apply at the expense of the operator responsible for the batch.

6) Provisional conclusions

The official control system frontier workers, as articulated and applied, currently guarantees an appreciable level of guarantee on the conformity of goods entering the EU borders.

The implementation measures of the Official Controls Regulation, paradoxically, introduce in some cases (e.g. honey) import requirements so restrictive that they can integrate technical barriers to the international trade of goods. (5)

Farmers they should therefore not worry about the authorities carrying out the checks, but rather about the lobbies - starting with Coldiretti - who have not been able to (or wanted to) introduce suitable rules to inform consumers about the origin of the products and their agricultural raw materials. (6)

Dario Dongo and Claudio Biglia


(1) Dario Dongo. Coldiretti, the parade at Brenner and the judicial actions. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).
(2) Dario Dongo, Giulia Torre. Official public controls, EU regulation 2017/625 is underway. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).
(3) Dario Dongo, Giulia Pietrollini. Official controls, European Commission guidelines on the regulation. EU 2017/625. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 2.1.23
(4) Dario Dongo, Amaranta Traversa, Sarah Lanzilli, Claudio Biglia. Official controls, Legislative Decree 27/21. Implementation of reg. EU 2017/625. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).
(5) Dario Dongo, Andrea Adelmo Della Penna. Import of products of animal origin and composite products, the new EU rules. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).
(6) Dario Dongo. Origin of raw materials on the label, the unsolved problem. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

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