SPS Goods Certificate For Health: What It Is, Why You Need One, and How To Get It

January 11, 2024
SPS Goods Certificate For Health: What It Is, Why You Need One, and How To Get It

In the world of international trade, navigating the regulatory landscape is paramount. One key element ensuring the health and safety of traded goods is the SPS goods certificate.

SPS stands for Sanitary and Phytosanitary, indicating its role in safeguarding human, animal, and plant health during cross-border trade.

An SPS goods certificate is a document issued by the exporting country’s authorities, affirming that specific products meet the sanitary and phytosanitary standards of the importing country. This certificate plays a crucial role in facilitating smooth trade by providing assurance regarding the safety of goods.

It’s fundamental for agricultural products, foods, and animal products.

In an era where global supply chains connect diverse regions, this certificate acts as a key to enter the country and its market, ensuring that products comply with the health and safety regulations of both the exporting and importing nations.

Clearly, the SPS goods certificate is an important document, and international traders are well-advised to stay updated on the means of application. As it pertains to Great Britain, HM Revenue and Customs have issued the guide, How to apply for a health certificate to export SPS goods.

Using our cross-border expertise, we’ve unpacked all the essential information in the following blog post.

What Are SPS Goods?

SPS goods encompass a wide array of products related to the worlds of plants, animals, and their derivatives. These goods are subject to stringent regulations and controls to ensure that they pose no threat to human, animal, or plant health.

Understanding the scope of SPS goods is crucial for businesses engaged in international trade, as compliance is essential for seamless cross-border transactions.

  1. Live Animals: This category includes various animals intended for export, such as livestock, pets, and zoo animals. Health certificates are often required to verify that these animals are free from diseases and comply with the health standards of the destination country.
  2. Animal Products: SPS regulations cover a broad range of animal-derived products, including meat, dairy, eggs, and processed goods. Health certificates are necessary to confirm that these products meet the sanitary and safety standards set by the importing country.
  3. Plant Products: This category includes fruits, vegetables, grains, seeds, and other plant-based commodities. Health certificates for plant products often certify that they are free from pests, diseases, or contaminants that could pose a risk to the agricultural ecosystems of the importing country.
  4. Processed Foods: Certain processed foods that contain animal or plant ingredients may also fall under SPS regulations. These could include packaged foods, beverages, and other processed items that require certification to ensure compliance with health and safety standards.

For example, exporting a shipment of dairy products to another country would likely require an SPS goods certificate. The certificate would confirm that the dairy products meet the relevant health and safety standards, ensuring that they are fit for human consumption and do not pose a risk to the importing country’s population or its agricultural and environmental health.

As part of our trade-specialised consultancy services, we offer tailored advice on the SPS goods certificate, and the ways it impacts your organisation.

Book your consultation now.

Why Do I Need a Health Certificate to Export SPS Goods?

A Health Certificate is a formal document that serves as official confirmation that your export adheres to the health standards mandated by the destination country.

You will need an SPS goods certificate for each:

  • Type of animal or animal product you export from GB
  • Type of product, if your shipment contains a mix of different products

Particularly vital when exporting or transporting live animals or animal products, the Health Certificate attests that your goods meet the health requirements of the European Union/European Economic Area countries when moving from Great Britain.

The certification process involves applying for a Health Certificate, typically overseen by an Official Veterinarian (OV) or a Food Competent Certifying Officer (FCCO). Recognised by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) for possessing the correct qualifications, these professionals play a crucial role in ensuring that your exported goods meet the necessary standards.

Note that the advice contained in this guide may NOT apply if you are:

  • Moving goods from Northern Ireland. If this applies to you, please refer to the inspection process on the DAERA website, or our Ireland-UK Trade consultancy.
  • Exporting composite products. Composite food products are intended only for human consumption.

Who Administers the Certification Process?

Administering the certification process is the responsibility of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), a government body in the UK.

The Animal Plant Health Agency (APHA), an Executive Agency of Defra, operates on behalf of various government bodies, including the Scottish Government, Welsh Government, and the Food Standards Agency.

APHA authorises and provides guidance to inspectors, and the Centre for International Trade, managed by APHA, oversees the EHC Online system.

When navigating the certification process, exporters must choose an Official Veterinarian (OV) or a local authority (LA) inspector, and ensure they are authorised to inspect the consignment and sign the Health Certificate in the days preceding the export.

How To Apply

Navigating the application process for an SPS goods certificate involves several stages. Ensure a smooth experience by following these steps:

1. Create Essential Accounts:

  • Government Gateway Account: If you don’t have one already, create a Government Gateway account. An email address is needed for this.
  • Defra Account: Obtain a Defra account, requiring your Company House Number. This is a crucial step to authenticate your business identity.

2. Preliminary Checks:

  • Search for Your Animal or Product: Identify and search for the specific animal or product you intend to export. This is so you can understand the specific requirements and regulations that apply to your consignment.
  • Download and Read the EHC and Guidance Notes: Familiarise yourself with the Export Health Certificate (EHC) and accompanying guidance notes. These documents outline the necessary steps and criteria for exporting your consignment.

3. Liaise with the Official Veterinarian (OV) or Inspector:

  • Contact the Certifying Officer: Reach out to the Official Veterinarian (OV) or inspector who will be responsible for certifying your EHC.

4. Submission of Applications:

  • Submit Documents: Once you’ve gathered the required information and communicated with the certifying officer, submit your application through the designated channels. Ensure that all necessary documents are included and accurately filled out.

Remember, the collaboration with the certifying officer is pivotal. Their expertise ensures that your application aligns with the health and safety standards required for SPS goods.

Always refer to the guidance notes for specific details related to your consignment, and reach out to relevant authorities for any clarifications during the application process.

The Information You Need To Give

The specific nature of individual applications will vary, but you can typically expect to give information around:

  • The type of good
  • Your unique reference number
  • The destination and POE (point of entry) EU location if relevant
  • The certifier
  • Information for APHA
  • A description of the goods
  • Consigner & exporter détails
  • Consignee & Importer details
  • The place of import destination
  • Port of entry or BCP details
  • Transport details


The approval process involves coordination between APHA, the Official Veterinarian (OV), or inspector. Here’s what you need to know:

1. Notification from APHA:

  • Collaborating with OV or Inspector: After APHA approves your application, they will either send the Health Certificate directly to your Official Veterinarian (OV) or inspector. Alternatively, if they are registered to use the EHC online service, they will be notified that the certificate is ready for download and printing.
  • Timeline: The certificate will be sent or made available:
  • Seven working days before your export date.
  • Within one working day if your export is planned within the next seven working days.

2. Verification of Certificate Transmission:

  • Online Application Status: If you applied online, you can monitor the status of your application. Ensure that APHA has sent the certificate to your OV or inspector. If any issues arise, promptly contact APHA for resolution.

3. Arranging with OV or Inspector:

  • Completion and Signing: Once APHA has transmitted the certificate, coordinate with your nominated OV or inspector. They need to complete, sign, and provide you with the approved Health Certificate.
  • Certificate Accompaniment: The Health Certificate must accompany your consignment to the export destination. It’s essential that the goods remain intact and are not split up during transit.

4. Conduct of Examination and Inspection:

  • Compliance with Instructions: The inspector will conduct examinations, inspections, testing, sampling, and treatment in line with APHA instructions and the specific requirements outlined in the Export Health Certificate, notes for guidance, and checklists issued.
  • Declarations: Signed and dated declarations, in adherence to APHA guidelines, must travel with the consignment to the export destination. Again, it’s crucial that the goods are not separated during transit.

Adherence to these procedures ensures a seamless approval process and facilitates the smooth movement of SPS goods, meeting the health and safety standards required by the destination country.

The Bottom Line

Obtaining an SPS goods certificate is not only a regulatory necessity but a critical component in ensuring the health and safety of exported products. The meticulous process involved in acquiring these certificates speaks to a commitment to international standards and the responsible trade of SPS goods.

If you’re interested in professional and independent guidance in acquiring an SPS goods certificate, SPS Control Compliance consultancy could be for you. Here at clearBorder, we also offer a range of other consulting services tailored to facilitate seamless trade operations, including:

Embrace the future of international trade with clearBorder as your strategic partner; contact us now to learn more.