SPS requirements for moving products of plant and animal origin

In this article you will find out more information regarding the specific requirements for moving products which are of plant or animal origin across borders. These requirements are known as Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) rules.


InterTradeIreland will update this information when further details about changes to trade and customs arrangements are released. Please check back regularly. 

What are Sanitary and Phytosanitary rules?

Sanitary and Phytosanitary controls are measures introduced which are designed to protect plant, animal and public health.

SPS controls include, but are not limited to:

  • Requirement to enter via specific Border Control Posts
  • Documentary, physical and identity checks
  • Requirement for Export Health Certificate
  • Pre-notifications of imports.

What products are subject to SPS controls?

The following products are subject to SPS controls:

  • Live animals
  • Products of animal origin
  • High risk food
  • Plants and plant products
  • Wood packaging material.

To be able to confirm the correct requirements for specific goods, it is essential that businesses ensure they choose the correct commodity code for each product. More information about how to select the correct commodity code can be found in our comprehensive guide to commodity codes.

More information about SPS controls that apply to specific products can be found in this gov.ie information about Brexit and the Agri-Food Sector and this Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs information about : Sanitary and Phytosanitary checks – advice for businesses moving consignments from GB

What types of checks can take place?

There are three types of checks that can take place when importing goods which are subject to SPS controls. These are:

  1. Documentary checks: An electronic check to confirm that a consignment has the correct documentation.
  2. Identity checks: A check on the commercial seal attached to a consignment.
  3. Physical checks: A detailed examination of a consignment which takes place at the port of entry.

SPS requirements on trade between Ireland and Northern Ireland (cross-border trade):

It is essential that businesses closely monitor their route to market to identify any areas of possible risk. Under the terms of the Windsor Framework, in most cases, there will be no new requirements regarding SPS controls on goods moving in either direction between Northern Ireland and Ireland. However, for goods which subsequently leave Northern Ireland / Ireland there may be additional requirements.

With reference to labelling and products remaining in Northern Ireland, we would also encourage you to read our article on the Retail Movement Assistance Scheme which provides guidance around pre-packaged retail goods imported into and staying in Northern Ireland and this article about Labelling Requirements.

SPS requirements on trade between Northern Ireland and Great Britain

Northern Ireland to GB - As with the Northern Ireland Protocol, under the Windsor Framework businesses in Northern Ireland will continue to have "unfettered access" for goods moving from NI to the rest of the UK. This means that there will be no additional requirements for Northern Irish businesses moving goods to Great Britain.

Great Britain to NI - There continue to be SPS requirements for certain goods of plant and animal origin being imported into Northern Ireland from Great Britain. More information about these requirements can be found in this GOV.UK guidance about Importing live animals and products of animal origin.

In addition to existing SPS checks currently required, there has been more recent changes following with the introduction of the Windsor Framework. One such example is the Retail Movement Assistance Scheme which introduces a new way to move pre-packed retail goods from Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) into Northern Ireland. Traders selling pre-packaged agri-food goods from GB-NI for final consumption can join the new Retail Movement Assistance Scheme. This scheme allows for goods to enter Northern Ireland via the green lane and face much reduced requirements. More information can be found in our article about the Retail Movement Assistance Scheme.

This article focuses on the requirement for moving products of plant and animal origin. For more information on the customs requirements for moving goods between GB and Northern Ireland please see our comprehensive Customs Paperwork information. It is essential that businesses closely monitor their route to market to identify any areas of possible risk.

Great Britain to NI – Chilled meats

Under the terms of the Windsor Framework the ban on the import of certain prohibited goods such as chilled meats and sausages along with certain plants will be lifted.

The new requirements will also be extended to goods from Rest of World (ROW) countries if they have been either processed in the UK or meet UK public health standards and pose no disease risks.

There will be no set physical checks, with interventions being based on intelligence around smuggling and risk to plant/animal health.

SPS requirements on trade from Ireland to Great Britain

The UK government has recently announced their new Border Target Operating Model. This model sets out the future border strategy for importing into Great Britain. A key element of this model is introduction of new import processes and checks relating to products of plant/animal origin coming from the EU including Ireland into GB. More details about these requirements including key timelines can be found in our article on the Border Target Operating Model.

What are the requirements for wood packaging material?

From 1 January 2021 all wood packaging associated with goods (e.g., boxes, crates, dunnage, pallets) moving between GB and the EU must meet ISPM15 International Standards by undergoing heat treatment and marking. The UK has advised that it will carry out checks on a 'risk targeted basis only'. This includes any wood packaging material which is moving from GB to Northern Ireland. 


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Article reviewed: September 2023