DEFRA publishes TOM risk categorisations for goods subject to sanitary or phytosanitary checks

Tue 2 May 2023
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News

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DEFRA has posted the ‘risk categorisation’ of EU goods subject to the new sanitary or phytosanitary (SPS) controls that are being introduced from the autumn, as per the draft Border Target Operating Model (TOM) that was published in April.

The categories – ‘low’, ‘medium’ and ‘high’ – will determine the level of checks and documentation that will be required for SPS goods entering Britain from the EU and EFTA.

Affected goods include animals, animal origin products, plants and plant-based products. Plant and plant-based products from Norway and Iceland are not subject to the new categorisations.

  • The categories for animals and animal origin products can be found here
  • The categories for plants and plant-based products can be found here

Autumn date

The UK has delayed introducing a range of import controls on EU goods following Brexit due to the impact of the pandemic, the war in Ukraine and the ensuing cost of living crisis.

It published a draft of its plans to bring in import controls on EU and EFTA goods in April, titled the Border Target Operating Model. This model remains subject to extensive industry consultation, but it is expected to be finalised by the autumn.

The new SPS requirements being introduced under the model will come into effect from 31 October 2023.

The Institute of Export & International Trade (IOE&IT) is currently running a survey about the draft model, which you can complete here.

Streamlined EHCs

With the draft TOM the UK has also committed to streamlining the format and content of the export health certificates (EHCs) that are required for medium and high risk animal or animal origin products entering Great Britain.

The new EHCs for products of animal origin and a number of animal by-products have now been published on here. The remaining EHCs for animal by-products will be published by mid-May 2023, with new EHCs to be published for live animals and germinal products in the summer.

These new EHCs will need to be used for affected goods from 31 October 2023.

Businesses can now prepare

Anna Doherty, an IOE&IT senior trade and customs specialist, welcomed the publication of the TOM risk categorisations, saying businesses could now start to prepare for 31 October.

She told the IOE&IT Daily Update today (2 May):

“At the recent IOE&IT webinar about the draft TOM, the majority of delegates said they needed more information about these categories before they could comment on the UK’s new model for SPS checks.

“We’re glad the government has published these quickly as this will give businesses time before 31 October 2023 to start preparing for new processes – including obtaining licences or authorisations – depending on the risk category of their goods.

“We advise businesses to review the categorisations carefully and, if they are unsure about which categories their goods fall under, they should review the SPS training and consultancy support provided by the IOE&IT.”

On the IOE&IT’s webinar about the new TOM in April, 56% of the audience said they needed more information about the risk categories before saying what they thought of the government’s approach to SPS controls. Over a fifth (21%) said they felt positive about the new model, while 15% said they felt the benefits were “clearer for low risk SPS goods”.


Under the new SPS model, businesses will have to comply with different requirements depending on the risk categorisation of their goods.

For low risk goods:

  • Businesses will need to notify authorities about their imported goods before they are due to arrive in Great Britain, using the Import of Products, Animals, Food and Feed System (IPAFFS)
  • They will not be required to attain a health certificate
  • Low risk consignments must be accompanied with a commercial document from the supplier
  • Certain low risk animal by-products that currently need a facilitation letter will no longer need this from 31 October 2023

For medium risk goods:

  • Pre-notification will need to be completed using IPAFFS before the goods arrive in Great Britain
  • From 31 October 2023, a health certificate will need to be issued by the competent authority in the country where the goods originate
    • An official importer declaration may be used instead in certain cases
  • From 31 January 2024, these goods may be subject to physical import checks

For high risk goods:

  • Pre-notification will need to be completed through IPAFFS, as above
  • The consignment must have a health certificate, as above
  • These goods are already subject to physical checks at the border and this will continue to be the case after 31 October 2023

Meats are ‘medium risk’

Garima Srivastava, also a senior trade and customs specialist at the IOE&IT , has said that businesses should review the categorisations carefully, noting that many meat products are categorised as medium risk and will therefore require health certificates.

Srivastava told the IOE&IT Daily Update:

“From our initial analysis of the categorisations, it should be noted that many meat products are in the medium risk category, alongside some dairy and egg products. Most, but not all, cut flowers are low risk, while, as expected, plants for planting are high risk.

“Businesses will need to review the categorisations carefully to see what checks and controls will apply for their goods. Low risk goods also need to meet certain conditions under the draft TOM, so traders need to fully assess their compliance requirements.”

‘Continuous assessment’

Speaking on the IOE&IT webinar in April, Alexander Walford, the deputy director for border industry engagement and business readiness at the Cabinet Office, said there would be “continuous assessment” of the risk categories.

“Continuous assessment of risk will be carried out by a UK-wide animal disease policy group and plant health protection organisation that will have continuing oversight of risk categorisation and they can alter the categorisation as circumstances require,” he said.

He added that the 31 October deadline was something “businesses should start preparing for now, as we don’t intend to move this”.

Know your goods

At the webinar, IOE&IT SPS and customs experts said that it was “crucial” that businesses understood their commodities and their risk categorisations.

Laura Williams, a trade and customs specialist, said: “Understanding your commodity is crucial. If you don’t understand your commodity, then every step you take could be a wrong step.”

IOE&IT director of strategic projects and international development Kevin Shakespeare agreed, saying: “I’d stress the importance of provenance, traceability and the supply chain. Really make sure you have the provenance, as much information as possible, including ingredients is really important to help de-risk.”