Changes to health certificates for seafood exports to the EU
UPDATE Tuesday 10 August 2021
New health certification rules which would have applied to seafood exporters in Great Britain (GB) exporting to the European Union were due to be introduced from 21 August 2021.
The EU has delayed the introduction of these new export health certificates (EHCs) until 15 January 2022. You do not need to take action before 21 August 2021.
We are waiting for further clarification from Defra on next steps. We will update the below guidance when this is available.
The trader showcase site managed by Defra has updated Animal Health Regulation (AHR) frequently asked questions which are now available. The content is hosted on Dropbox and requires you to register.
Published: Thursday 5 August 2021
Content updated: Tuesday 10 August 2021
New health certification rules apply from Saturday 15 January 2022. They apply to seafood exporters in Great Britain (GB) exporting to the European Union. The new rules also apply to GB businesses trading with Northern Ireland.
It is most relevant to aquaculture businesses, or businesses exporting aquaculture products. Some species, such as Pacific oysters, European flat oysters and salmon, are affected more than others. If you currently export using EHC numbers 8249 or 8270 the changes will affect your business.
We appreciate this guidance may be complicated and we have tried to make it clear as we can. If you would like more help to understand the changes we can give you support. Our contact details are at the bottom of this page.
Please note, most of the links on this page will take you to external websites.
The UK left the European Union (EU) on 31 January 2020 and entered an 11-month transition period. At the end of the transition period, UK seafood has had to comply with EU requirements to be accepted onto the EU market. The requirements include the need for each consignment to be accompanied by an EHC. The format of these certificates is determined by the EU.
The EU adopted the new 'Animal Health Law' in March 2016. The law sets new health certification rules for animals and products of animal origin intended for the EU market. For seafood, the details of these changes are set out in Commission Implementing Regulations (EU) 2020/2235 and 2020/2236.
Most of the provisions in the Animal Health Law applied from 21 April 2021. The new rules surrounding health certification for fish, crustaceans and molluscs benefitted from an extended transition period which allows existing EHCs to be used until 15 January 2022.
Which seafood products have new EU EHCs?
The EHCs for the following commodities have been updated. Click on the link to view the specimen certificate and the guidance notes.
- EHC 8361 - Live fish and fish products for human consumption (previously EHC 8270)
- EHC 8361 - Live crustaceans and crustacean products for human consumption (previously EHC 8270)
- EHC 8364 - Live bivalve molluscs, echinoderms, tunicates, marine gastropods, and products derived from these animals, for human consumption (previously EHC 8249 or EHC 8270)
- Aquatic animals intended for certain aquaculture establishments, for release into the wild, or for other purposes, excluding direct human consumption - Pending
Minor revisions to EHC 8361 and 8364 are expected in due course.
What are the new requirements?
There are eight new requirements to be aware of:
1. Add the country name and ISO country code
ISO country code refers to the international standard 2-letter code for a country. For England, Scotland, Wales, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, the ISO country code is 'GB'.
The country name should be listed as 'UNITED KINGDOM'.
The country name and the ISO country code will now be required with the addresses of the consignor (box I.1) and consignee (box I.5), the operator responsible for the consignment (box I.6), the place of dispatch (box I.11) and the place of destination (box I.12).
A phone number will no longer be required for the consignor (box I.1) and consignee (box I.5).
2. Add registration/approval number (where applicable) of the place of destination.
If your seafood consignment is destined for an EU establishment that is handling or preparing the goods, the establishment should be approved by the national competent authority. Approved premises include processing plants, re-wrapping and re-packing establishments, fish markets, relaying areas, and temperature-controlled storage.
If the place of destination is a retail or hospitality establishment, it is likely that the premises is registered with the national competent authority. Registered premises include restaurants, cafes, cold stores operated by a retailer and cold stores operated by a wholesaler supplying the final consumer.
Where applicable, exporters should contact their EU importer or the place of destination directly to obtain the establishment’s registration number.
If the place of destination is the final consumer (i.e. for domestic consumption or direct supply of small quantities of primary products), a registration or approval number is not required.
In box I.12 of the new export health certificates, either the registration or the approval number of the place of destination needs to be listed, where applicable. Only one number is required. If the place of destination has both a registration and approved establishment number, it is recommended that you list the approval number.
3. Specify the consignment's oldest date of production
In box I.27, you must now specify the earliest date of final production of the items contained in your consignment.
If you use groupage and export to the EU via a logistics hub, you will need to provide this date to the hub. This will allow the certifying officer to identify the oldest production date in the consolidated consignment.
4. You must now complete part II.2 of the EHC and have it signed by an Official Veterinarian (OV) if you are exporting certain listed species
Listed species include Pacific oysters, European flat oysters, Atlantic salmon, rainbow trout and decapod crustaceans (which include crabs, lobsters and prawns). Listed species can be identified in column 3 of the Annex of Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2018/1882
If the listed species are farmed and exported to the EU alive, part II.2 of the certificate must be completed and signed by an OV. It may be possible to strike through some sections of part II.2 (see section 6 below).
If the listed species are farmed and exported to the EU dead for further processing (i.e. not for direct human consumption), part II.2 must be completed and signed by an OV. [We interpret 'processing' to mean any action that substantially alters the initial product, including heating, smoking, curing, maturing, drying, marinating, extraction, extrusion or a combination of those processes (see Article 2(m) Regulation (EC) No 852/2004)]
If the listed species are farmed and exported to the EU dead for direct human consumption, wrapping or packing, part II.2 of the certificate can be deleted.
Wild fish, crustaceans and molluscs landed by fishing vessels are not required to be accompanied by a certificate with part II.2 completed.
Species listed in column 4 of the Annex of Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2018/1882 may act as a vector species if they live in proximity to a listed species. For example, the common edible cockle is named as a disease vector species for the European flat oyster. Where the common edible cockle co-habits or shares a water supply with European flat oysters they are considered a vector species.
If you export vector species, you are required to complete part II.2 and obtain OV certification if they are farmed and exported to the EU alive.
You are not required to complete part II.2 and obtain OV certification if the vector species are farmed and exported to the EU dead (regardless of whether they are exported to the EU for further processing).
To summarise: part II.2 does not apply if the species you are exporting is not a listed or vector species, or if the species was landed from fishing vessel, or if the export is not going for further processing in the EU.
5. If part II.2 of the new EHC is completed, the EHC becomes valid for 10 days.
6. Clinical inspections of listed and vector species can take place 72 hours before loading, not 24 hours.
Part II.2.3.2 requires listed and vector species to have undergone clinical inspection by an Official Veterinarian (OV) 72 hours prior to the time of loading for export.
Part II.2.3.2 however does not apply to listed and vector fish species which have been landed from a fishing vessel.
Part II.2.3.2 also does not apply to farmed listed and vector fish species that have been slaughtered and eviscerated before dispatch to the EU.
Part II.2.3.2 does not apply to molluscs and crustaceans landed from a fishing vessel. It also does not apply to farmed molluscs and farmed crustaceans packaged and labelled for human consumption which are either:
- No longer able to survive as living animals if returned to the aquatic environment
- Packaged for retail sale without further processing in the EU. [Packaging means the placing of one or more wrapped foodstuffs in a second container, and the latter container itself (Article 2(k) Regulation (EC) No 852/2004)]
- Intended for further processing without temporary storage at the place of processing in the EU
Parts II.2.3.1 and II.2.4 also do not apply to the above products.
7. Where listed and vector species are transported in water to the EU, that water cannot be changed in a third country which is not listed for entry into the EU for that particular species and category of aquatic animals (part II.2.6.1).
Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2021/405 sets out the list of third countries and regions authorised for the entry into the EU of certain animals and goods intended for human consumption.
Annex VIII of the regulation lists the third countries and regions authorised for the entry into the EU of live, chilled, frozen or processed bivalve molluscs, echinoderms, tunicates and marine gastropods.
Annex IX of the regulation lists the third countries and regions authorised for the entry into the EU of certain fishery products.
To ensure compliance with part II.2.6.1, it is recommended that exporters of listed and vector species scrutinise the route their consignment takes to enter the EU and arrive at its destination.
Where a water exchange is necessary, it must only occur at approved water exchange points on-land, or in the case of a well-boat, at least 10km from any aquaculture establishment.
8. New labelling requirements for listed and vector species
For farmed listed and vector species, the consignment must be identifiable by a legible and visible label on the exterior of the container (or on the ship's manifest when transported by a well-boat) which clearly links the consignment to its export health certificate (EHC).
Any traceability information entered in part I of the EHC, such as a certificate reference number, a batch number or an identification mark, may be used to connect the EHC to the consignment.
For farmed listed and vector species which are exported alive to the EU, a legible and visible label must identify:
- Number of containers in the consignment
- Name of the species in each container
- Number of animals in each container for each species present
- The statement “Live [molluscs]/[fish]/[crustaceans] intended for human consumption in the EU”
['Container' means any crate, box, receptacle or other rigid structure used for the transport of animals, germinal products or products of animal origin which is not the means of transport (Article 2(4) Regulation (EU) 2020/692)]
Farmed listed and vector species which are exported dead to the EU must display a legible and visible label containing one of the following statements:
- “molluscs intended for human consumption after further processing in the European Union”
- “[fish]/[crustaceans] intended for further processing in the European Union before human consumption”
I export listed and/or vector species to the EU. Where can I find an Official Veterinarian (OV) to certify my EHC? How much will they charge?
Lists of OVs and other officers in England, Scotland and Wales that inspect and certify animals and animal products for export can be found on the Gov.uk website.
OVs operate in a commercial environment so fees for their services will vary. Estimated costs for an OV signed export health certificate (EHC) can range between £140 - £200. If the OV is required to travel (e.g. to an aquaculture establishment), the costs may be much higher.
Defra and the devolved administrations are currently working with Cefas and Marine Scotland, to consider proposals on how the requirements of live aquatic and aquaculture animal export health certificates can be met utilising current resources.
Defra will communicate specific guidance to industry prior to these certificates being used for trade from 15 January 2022.
If my seafood consignment is destined for a non-EU country, do I need an EHC to transit the EU?
The EU's animal health rules still apply for consignments of aquatic animals transiting the EU.
If you are exporting farmed listed or vector species to a non-EU country and these products are within scope of part II.2 of the EU export health certificate (EHC), you must obtain an EHC to accompany the consignment on its journey across the EU.
Public health rules do not apply to consignments of fishery products which transit the EU, so only part II of the EHC is required to be completed.
In the above circumstance, box 1.21 of EHC 8362 and 8364 should indicate the name and ISO country code of the third country of destination.
We employ a vet at our aquaculture establishment. Can they sign the EHC?
The Animal and Plant Health Agency must authorise any person to perform statutory veterinary work as an Official Veterinarian (OV).
Full members of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) or individuals approved by the RCVS to practice veterinary medicine for a specified period in the UK, must hold the appropriate Official Controls Qualification (veterinary) (OCQ(V)) to be authorised.
If the OV is exclusively employed by the aquaculture establishment, caution surrounding any conflict of interest should be exercised.
What is the 'region of origin'?
For live bivalve molluscs which require box I.8 of the export health certificate (EHC) to be completed, you should enter the harvesting area code, which are available on the Gov.uk website. The harvesting code can be found in the first column “SIN (Scotland)/RMP (England and Wales)/Unique Identifier (Crown Dependencies)”. A GBR prefix is not required.
No region is needed for tunicates, echinoderms or gastropods which are not filter feeders. Scallops also do not require a region to be given if they have not been harvested from a classified area. In these circumstances, “n/a” should be inserted into box I.8.
What is the 'place of loading'?
Box I.13 of the new EU export health certificates (EHCs) requires the name, address and category (e.g. establishment, port or airport) of the final place where the consignment is to be loaded. Only the city or town in which the consignment is to be loaded was previously required.
In the case of transport by ferry, the place of loading is the point at which the road vehicle embarks upon the ferry. Where the consignment is to be transported by ferry, 'vessel' should be selected as the means of transport in box I.15.
In the case of transport by air, the place of loading is the point at which the consignment embarks upon the aircraft.
Is my consignment for the 'final consumer' or for 'further processing'?
'Final consumer' means the ultimate consumer of a foodstuff who will not use the food as part of any food business operation or activity (Article 3(18) Regulation (EC) No 178/2002).
We interpret that 'processing' means any action that substantially alters the initial product, including heating, smoking, curing, maturing, drying, marinating, extraction, extrusion or a combination of those processes (Article 2(m) Regulation (EC) No 852/2004).
Gutting, heading, slicing, filleting, and chopping are considered preparatory actions (point 3.5, Annex I Regulation (EC) No 853/2004). If your consignment contains unprocessed seafood that is destined for an establishment in the EU where these actions will take place (e.g. at a restaurant), the consignment would not be considered an export for further processing.
Is it mandatory to supply accompanying documentation as specified in box I.17?
The requirement to supply accompanying documentation has not changed. If you had been providing documentation to accompany your consignment to the EU, you should continue to do so.
Accompanying documentation may include CITES permits, permits for invasive alien species (IAS), declarations or other documents including of a commercial nature.
'Commercial document reference' refers to for example the airway bill number, the bill of lading number or the commercial number of the train or road vehicle.
Can I use the new EHCs before 15 January 2022?
Defra is currently reviewing options for the use of current and new health certificates. We will provide an update as soon as the information is available.
Are there transitional arrangements for the new EU EHCs?
The existing EHC templates (EHC 8270 and EHC 8249) can be used until 15 March 2022, provided they are signed before 15 January 2022.
From 15 January 2022, the updated EHC templates (EHC 8361 and 8364) must be used to accompany consignments of seafood to the EU.
Our Regulation experts can provide bespoke advice and support to your business on Export Health Certificates or other trade issues.
For further assistance email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Added a note that the EU has delayed the introduction of these changes until 15 January 2022. The guidance will be updated when we have further information.
5 August 2021
- Amended answer to 'Can I use the new export health certificates (EHCs) before 21 August?' to provide additional detail around withdrawal of existing templates on 20 August.