Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools
You are here: Home topics Food & Drink Plant health: Harmful organisms

Plant health: Harmful organisms

19 January 2010
by Ina Dimireva -- last modified 11 May 2010

The aim of the Community plant health regime is to prevent the introduction into the community of organisms harmful to plants or plant products or their spread within the Community. In order to meet the this aim, rights and obligations are placed upon Member States to regulate the movement of plants or plant products within their territory and to regulate the introduction of plants or plant products into the Community from third countries. Obligations are placed upon third countries which want to export plants or plant products to the Community.


Intra-EU Trade

Council Directive 2000/29/EC regulates the movement within Member States of certain plants, plant products and other objects which are potential carriers of harmful organisms of relevance for the entire community (listed in Part A of Annex V to the said Directive). These plants, plant products and other objects have in general a high economic importance. They are subject to specific conditions governing the control of their production that include inspections at the place of production at the most appropriate time, i.e. during the growing season and immediately after harvest. Therefore, any producers of the material listed in Part A of Annex V must be listed in an official register. The plants, plant products and other objects are also to be accompanied by a plant passport when moved. This document gives evidence that the material has successfully undergone the Community checking system. It replaces the phytosanitary certificate, used for trade between Member States before the establishment of the Single Market.


Third Country Imports

Council Directive 2000/29/EC contains provisions concerning the compulsory plant health checks to be carried out on certain plants and plant products (listed in Annex V Part B) coming from third countries. These checks consist of documentary, identity and physical plant health checks with a view to ensuring compliance with the EC's general and specific import requirements.

  • Documentary checks consist of verification of the certificates and documents that accompany a consignment and in particular the phytosanitary certificate. This certificate should be issued by the appropriate authority of the country of origin or of re-exportation, which has been designated in accordance with the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC). These documents must ensure that the product meets the specific requirements imposed by the Community.
  • Identity checks consist of verification that the consignment corresponds to the plants or plant products detailed in the certificate.
  • Plant health checks consist of verification, on the basis of an inspection of a part or of the entire consignment, that it is free from harmful organisms.

Plant health checks carried out at reduced frequency

Although Council Directive 2000/29/EC requires that every consignment of material listed in Annex V Part B of that Directive must be meticulously inspected on arrival in the Community, Commission Regulation EC/1756/2004 provides for plant health checks to be carried out at reduced frequency where this can be justified. The Community has developed a "Decision Tree" which is applied to each "trade" (trade = a commodity from a single country) in order to arrive at a reduced plant health check.

In order to be eligible, each trade must have had an average of at least 200 consignments per year over the previous three years and a minimum of 600 consignments must have been inspected over the same period. Any commodity which has had one per cent or more of its consignments intercepted because of harmful organisms is ineligible for consideration.

Any interceptions associated with a particular trade are assessed and allocated a value of 1, 3 or 9, depending on the estimated mobility of the harmful organism concerned (1 lowest, 9 for high mobility pests). The total "score" for the particular trade becomes its "risk index" which is then compared against a table of values differentiated according to the number of consignments inspected. The resulting figure is the recommended inspection frequency for that product. The final level of inspection may be adjusted upwards in order to ensure that a minimum of 200 consignments a year are inspected.

At present a total of 52 products have been recommended for plant health checks at reduced levels. A list of products recommended for plant health checks at reduced levels. [Updated 26-06-2009]

Identity and plant health checks carried out at "places of destination"

Commission Directive 2004/103/EC provides for the identity and plant health checks (but not documentary checks) to be carried out at the so-called "places of destination" under certain conditions.

Checks at destination may only be carried out with the agreement of the plant health authorities responsible for the point of entry and the point of destination. The plant health authorities must have previously approved an importer for this purpose. An approved importer must provide certain guarantees in order to be eligible. Consignments moved to a place of destination for identity and plant health checks must be covered by a 'plant health movement document' as specified in the relevant Commission Directive. Such material must be moved to the indicated destination and may only be released after a satisfactory examination has taken place.

Phytosanitary fees

Directive 2000/29/EC requires Member States to ensure the collection of a phytosanitary fee to cover the costs of the documentary, identity and plant health checks which are carried out. The level of the fee reflects in principle the salaries of the inspectors, the costs of the tests and any administrative expenses. The fee is payable by the importer or his custom's representative.

Measures of non compliance

In case of non compliance at import, one or several of the following measures shall be taken immediately:

  • Refusal of entry into the Community of all or part of the consignment,
  • Movement, under official supervision, in accordance with the appropriate customs procedure, during their movement within the Community, to a destination outside the Community,
  • Removal of infected/infested produce from the consignment,
  • Destruction,
  • Imposition of a quarantine period until the results of the examinations or official tests are available,
  • exceptionally and only in specific circumstances, appropriate treatment where it is considered by the responsible official body of the Member State that, as a result of the treatment, the conditions will be fulfilled and the risk of spreading harmful organisms is obviated; the measure of appropriate treatment may also be taken in respect of harmful organisms not listed in Annex I or Annex II of Council Directive 2000/29/EC.

Member States must notify the Community and the other Member States of any such consignments and the measures taken.

Source: European Commission

Sponsor a Guide

EUbusiness Guides offer background information and web links about key EU business issues.

Promote your services by providing your own practical information and help to EUbusiness members, with your brand and contact details.

To sponsor a Guide phone us on +44 (0)20 7193 7242 or email sales.

EU Guides