What requirements does my import product have to meet?

Do you import products into the European Economic Area (EEA)? Be aware that they must meet the European product requirements with regard to safety, health, and the environment. The EEA consists of the EU, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein. Member states have their own legislation to implement these European requirements. You can use the European Commission's Access2Markets tool for information on applicable product requirements.

Product safety

There is a European directive (2001/95/EC) for general product safety. This directive protects consumers and requires European producers and importers of products from outside the EEA to provide information on the safety and health risks of their products. These requirements apply to all products that are brought unto the European market.

In addition to the general product safety requirements, certain products and product groups are subject to European directives with specific product requirements. There are specific requirements for foodstuffs, chemical products, and many technical products, to give a few examples. 

National legislation

Most European legislation is laid down in directives. EU member states turn these into national laws and legislation. In the Netherlands for instance, the Commodities Act and various Commodities Act Decrees contain rules that consumer products in the Netherlands must comply with. Such as the rule that the mandatory label information on pre-packaged foods must be provided in Dutch. Or the requirements for crib and play pens with regard to the height of the side walls and the distance between the bars.

Finding product requirements

To find information on the requirements for your products, use the European Commission’s Access2Markets tool. This is how you use it:

  1. In the 'Country of Origin' field, select the country from which you are importing a product. In the 'Country of Destination' field, select the country in which you are importing the product (the Netherlands, for example).
  2. Fill in the 'Product name or HS code' field. A HS code (Harmonized System code) is a commodity code used by customs worldwide to classify products. Each product has a different HS Code. After entering the product name or HS code, click 'search'.
  3. Scroll down the list of commodities until you find a description that matches your product and the commodity code behind it.
  4. Click on the commodity code for your product.
  5. Are you importing the product from a non-EU country? Then you will go to the ‘Rates’ tab, where you can find the import duties for your product. For information on product requirements and import procedures, click on 'import regulations' in the overview on the left, and then on 'Specific'. You will get an overview of the product requirements. You can click on the spearate product requirements for more information on the requirements and the legislation. 
    If you are importing from an EU country, clicking the HS code will take you directly to 'Product requirements' .

Sources for product requirements

You will also find information on several product requirements on the EU website Your Europe. You can also visit the website of theCentre for the Promotion of Imports from developing countries (CBI). Or read the articles on importing:

CE Marking

Many technical products and various consumer products sold in the EEA are required to bear CE Marking. CE Marking indicates that a product meets certain minimum safety, health, and environmental requirements. The requirements can be found in the CE directives. The CE directives apply to several product groups, including machines, toys (in Dutch), medical devices, and electrical/electronic equipment.

In some cases, product groups have to comply with several directives. For high-risk products, the manufacturer must have the product inspected by an independent notified body.

Health requirements

If you import foodstuffs, you must comply with European food safety requirements. This is necessary because foodstuffs can contain substances that are harmful to human health.

Additional requirements apply to certain foodstuffs. When importing animals or animal products, such as meatand fishery products, you often have to meet with veterinary health requirements. You will also have to comply with health requirements when importing certain plants, vegetables, fruits, and plant products.


REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) is a European regulation on the production of and trade in chemicals. When importing products such as chemicals, cans of paint, tubes of glue, clothing, batteries, car parts, or office supplies, you will have to deal with REACH.

Moreover, you will have also have to comply with provisions of the European CLP Regulation in addition to REACH. CLP stands for Classification, Labelling and Packaging. This is a European regulation that deals with the classification and labelling of chemicals.

Requirements for labels

Labels are part of the product requirements. For example, there are rules for what you must state on labels. Think of the composition of a product, contact details of importers or manufacturers and how you use the product. The NVWA checks if labels are correct. Each product group has its own rules:

Product liability

There is a European directive (85/374/EEC) that protects consumers from damage caused by defective products. Consumers can hold importers liable for damages. This includes personal injury and property damage. Personal damage is damage caused by death or bodily injury. Property damage is damage to another consumer's product caused by the defective product.  You can take out insurance against product liability risk. Discuss your options with an insurer.

In the cases listed below, the importer is liable for damages to the product. In those cases, the importer is also responsible for ensuring that the imported products meet the product requirements.

  • If you import products from an EEA country, product liability lies with the manufacturer who produced the product within the EEA. If the product was not manufactured in the EEA, the importer (within the EEA) who imported the product from a country outside the EEA bears product liability. Importers who import products from EEA countries have the role and responsibilities of a distributor.
  • Do you import products from a non-EEA country? You as importer can be held liable for damages caused by a faulty product.
  • If you import products from any country (EEA or non-EEA) and sell them under your own brand name, you present yourself as the manufacturer. You bear product liability for the damage caused by a defect in the product.
    Be aware of exclusions or limitations of liability in the terms and conditions of or the contract with your supplier and try to avoid them at all times.