UK animal product exports to EU will soon need veterinary attestations

From 13 December 2023, non-assured UK livestock farmers will need to provide a Veterinary Attestation Number (VAN) to enable products of animal origin to be exported to the EU.

If your abattoir or processor exports products of animal origin (POAO) to the EU or sells POAO that may be exported to the EU, they will need to see proof that all animals have come from farms that have had regular (at least annual) veterinary visits. The VAN mechanism provides that proof.

The previous temporary requirement, which involved a farmer declaration, will be replaced by this new procedure.

Veterinary visits

To obtain this declaration, regular animal health checks must be conducted by qualified vets. During their visits, vets will be required to carry out a visual assessment of the farm to confirm freedom of notifiable diseases and any biosecurity risk. No sampling or laboratory testing is required.

It is important to note that this does not need to be the sole purpose of the visit and can be combined with other visits covering routine work, providing that all species present at the premises are considered.

The visits should occur at least once during a 12-month period and the VAN issued will be valid for all species on the farm.

If there are substantial changes to how the farm operates between visits, the vet may wish to re-visit the farm to issue an updated VAN. If you have recently had a farm visit from your vet, they may be able to issue a VAN retrospectively, from the date of that visit.

The VAN will be a 20-digit number comprised of the vet’s RCVS registration number, the farm’s CPH number and the expiry date of the VAN. Abattoirs and the APHA may use the RCVS number to contact the individual vet to verify the VAN was issued by the vet.

For audit purposes, the vet will issue you with a certificate. This should be kept on your farm – a copy should also be retained by the veterinary practice.

Download the template certificate and guidance

Assurance scheme membership

If you are part of an approved farm assurance scheme, you will already meet the requirements and will not need a separate VAN.

Participation in approved assurance schemes is noted as part of the food chain information (FCI) so no additional veterinary declarations are required. The schemes currently approved are: Red Tractor, Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) and Farm Assured Welsh Livestock (FAWL).

If you keep poultry, participation in the Poultry Health Scheme or Lion Quality will cover products from that sector.

Approved farm assurance schemes only cover the species relevant to that scheme. If you also send non-assured species to slaughter or products to a processor, you will need an attestation to cover those.

If your farm has had an annual health and welfare review as part of the Animal Health and Welfare Pathway (AHWP), then this visit will also fulfil the requirements and you will be issued with a VAN. You will need to provide the VAN with any movements to slaughter.

Government updates

Originally, Defra announced that these regulatory changes would take effect on 13 December 2022. However, after the industry raised concerns, the Government agreed to delay the implementation of the new rule by a year, allowing farmers more time to prepare for the change and arrange the necessary vet visits.

The VAN will be communicated as part of the FCI on movement licences from the last farm to slaughter (including via market). If you do not send animals to slaughter or products to a processor, you do not need an attestation for your holding.

There will be different ways of including the VAN on the movement licence depending on which species you are moving (or in the case of sheep, whether you use paper licences or the new digital solution). Check with the movement system relevant to the species you are moving.

If you send your animals to abattoir via a market, please check the latest information from the Livestock Auctioneers’ Association.

Livestock Auctioneers’ Association: FAQs for livestock markets and producers

Dr Phil Hadley, International Trade Development Director, said:

“The UK ships approximately 72% of all its meat exports to the EU. It is particularly significant for the sheep meat sector, with 94% of sheep meat exports destined for the EU with a value of £475 million in 2022. In addition, £274 million worth of pig products and £347 million worth of beef meat was exported from the UK to the EU in 2022.

“A large part of AHDB’s work concerns securing market access and international trade opportunities on behalf of levy payers, in partnership with the UK Government and industry. The organisation’s role includes supporting farmers with their export health certification, and with UK meat exports continuing to climb, we’re focussing on the future to identify new markets for our exporters, ensuring UK meat is enjoyed in more countries around the world.”