General food trade obligations relate to food and feed imported and exported and international standards.
2 Food and Feed Imported into the EU
Food and feed imported into the EU for placing on the market within the EU shall comply with the relevant requirements of food law or conditions recognised to be at least equivalent or, where a specific agreement exists between the EU and the exporting country, in accordance with the requirements of that agreement.1
There are a number of specific import requirements to be found in a range of regulations, both in relation to specific import conditions2 and in regard to food generally.3 In addition there are separate requirements for feed4 and additives in feed.5
The concept of ‘placing on the market’ is central to compliance with these requirements and Article 3(8) of general food law Regulation (EC) 178/2002 provides a definition:
‘placing on the market’ means the holding of food or feed for the purpose of sale, including offering for sale or any other form of transfer, whether free of charge or not, and the sale, distribution, and other forms of transfer themselves.
The Official Feed and Food Controls (England) Regulations 2009 prohibit the introduction of specified feed and food from third countries that do not comply with feed and food safety requirements or the requirements of Articles 3 to 6 of Regulation (EC) 852/20046 concerning food business operators’ obligations in regard to hygiene requirements. Contravention of the requirements is an offence punishable with a fine and up to two years imprisonment.7
3 Food and Feed Exported from the EU
Food and feed exported or re-exported from the EU for placing on the market of a third country shall comply with the relevant requirements of food law, unless otherwise requested by the authorities of the importing country or established by the laws, regulations, standards, codes of practice and other legal and administrative procedures as may be in force in the importing country.8
4 International Standards
The EU and the Member States contribute to the development of international standards and trade agreements. The principles under which this is undertaken are set out in Article 13 of general food Regulation (EC) 178/2002 which provides that the EU and Members States shall:
Contribute to the development of international technical standards for food and feed and sanitary and phytosanitary9 standards.
Promote the coordination of work on food and feed standards undertaken by international governmental and nongovernmental organisations.
Contribute, where relevant and appropriate, to the development of agreements on recognition of the equivalence of specific food and feed-related measures.
Give particular attention to the special development, financial and trade needs of developing countries, with a view to ensuring that international standards do not create unnecessary obstacles to exports from developing countries.
Promote consistency between international technical standards and food law while ensuring that the high level of protection adopted in the EU is not reduced.
The EU joined the World Trade Organisation in 1995. The EU was a member of the Codex Alimentaris Commission and joined its Member States in 2003. It is through participation in these bodies that international standards and trade agreements are developed.
8 Op. cit., Article 12
9 Pertaining to the health of plants, especially freedom from pests and pathogens.