German regulations on the import of food

Guidelines with important contacts and links

There are a number of national and EU regulations that apply regarding the import of food to Germany

Guidelines by the EU Commission

The importer must also comply with these regulations; the importer is the first link in the domestic sales chain and consequently responsible for the marketability of the imported products.

The European Commission has published the following guidance document which refers to key Community law requirements: "Guidance document – Key questions related to import requirements and the new rules on food hygiene and official food controls".

Food legislation issues in detail

In Germany, the responsibility for enforcing food legislation, also import requirements, lies with the federal states (Länder). The question of whether a specific product complies with the import requirements must be evaluated by considering the actual product in its entirety, taking into account its composition, intended purpose and presentation.

The following sources provide information that may help clarify the interpretation and application of legal provisions in individual cases:

You may:

  • contact the stakeholder association responsible for your sector, if you are a member;
  • commission a food expert to, for example, evaluate a product’s compliance with the relevant legislation. You can find out the addresses of experts from the chamber of industry and commerce (IHK) that is competent for your area. The German nationwide register of IHK experts ccontains information on experts who have been officially appointed and attested by chambers of industry and commerce, chambers of agriculture or Länder governments. The addresses for enquiries to your local chamber of industry and commerce can be found at www.dihk.de/ihk-finder.
  • get in touch with the competent local food inspection authority. The competent authority is the authority at the location of the food business/importer in Germany. Please contact the Ministries of the Länder to find out the addresses of the respective authorities. You can access their websites from the Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety.

The Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture is not able to provide legal advice on individual cases.

Foods of animal origin from third countries in personal travellers’ luggage

Products of animal origin

Sausage and ham specialities Sausage and ham specialities
© Kalle Kolodziej - Fotolia.com

In order to prevent the introduction of animal epidemics, it is, pursuant to Regulation (EC) No 206/2009 (personal travellers’ luggage), prohibited to bring meat, milk and products derived therefrom into the European Union from non-EU countries. The ban does not apply to the import of certain products of animal origin in small quantities and subject to certain conditions. This includes infant food and special foods required for medical reasons, special pet feed required for medical reasons, other animal products (such as honey) up to 2 kg per person, fish/fish products up to 20 kg or the weight of one fish (whichever weight is the highest) per person. Some foods that only contain a very small share of processed products of animal origin and hardly pose any risk to human health, such as bread, cakes, biscuits and chocolate, may be brought in without any quantitative restrictions as food for consumption during the journey.

Information by the European Commission

The European Commission has published the following websites which provide information on key EU legislation and guidance documents regarding import requirements (guidance documents in English). They also describe the import procedure in detail:

  1. Food Safety – From the Farm to the Fork
    1. European Commission: Import requirements
    2. European Commission: Veterinary border controls
    3. European Commission: Veterinary border controls - FAQ
    4. European Commission: Import requirements for products from third countries
  2. Contact information of the EU veterinary border inspection posts that have to be used for the imports: click here.

Further information

Should you have any further questions regarding customs legislation, you are recommended to contact the Zollinfo-Center (customs information centre).

A licence may be required for trade in agricultural products between the European Community and third countries; this basically depends on the product concerned (although for some products there are allowances up to a certain quantity). For further information, please follow the link to the Bundesanstalt für Landwirtschaft und Ernährung (BLE - Federal Office of Agriculture and Food), Deichmanns Aue 29, 53179 Bonn, phone: 00 49 / 22 8 - 68 45 - 0, fax: 00 49 - 22 8 - 68 45 - 34 44, email: poststelle@ble.de.

We would like to draw your attention to the fact that the above information may not be exhaustive. Depending on the product, country of origin etc., you may need to obtain additional information or contact other authorities.

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