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Sanitary inspection

Sanitary inspection



Article 12, paragraph 5 of the Food Safety Law (“Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia” No. 41/09) prescribes the competence of the sanitary inspection in the field of safety of food imports and exports. In that sense, the sanitary inspection is responsible for the control of imports and exports at the customs posts for the following kinds of food:

  • novel food;
  • dietetic products;
  • food for babies - supplements for mother’s milk;
  • dietetic supplements;
  • salts for human ingestion;
  • additives, aromatics; 
  • enzymic preparations of other than animal origin; 
  • accessories of other than animal origin;
  • drinking water in original packing (table water, mineral water and spring water).

For a consignment that has been object to control, a sanitary inspector may immediately allow import based on documents at his disposal and the immediate inspection. If there is a need for an additional examination by means of laboratory analysis, the consignment shall not be customs cleared before the food safety had been verified and shall remain under the customs surveillance until the end of laboratory analysis.


Such consignments shall be considered blocked, i.e. the products cannot be put in circulation or further processed (if the raw materials and semi-processed products are in question) before the final decision of the sanitary inspector. In addition, such consignment shall be stocked in a suitable manner, noticeably marked and separated from other consignments in the customs warehouse or a warehouse under the customs control.


The procedure of the food safety control


The importer of food from Article 12, paragraph 5 of the Food Safety Law, initiates the proceeding of the food safety control.


After arrival of the consignment, the importer, or his representative (forwarding agent), informs the sanitary inspector responsible for the border area about the arrival of  the consignment;


The importer performs this obligation by submitting a written application for the control of every import consignment that has been arrived (the form to be filed is attached), with the following details on the consignment: 

  • name and the complete address of the supplier, importer and user;
  • content and  weight of  consignment;
  • status and kind of packing and the number of packed units;
  • registration number of the transportation means (ship, railroad car, truck etc.); 
  • declaration and  the purpose for which the consignment is intended;
  • eventual damage during the transport;
  • name and address of the person bearing the costs of analysis;
  • the time when the consignment will be ready for the control and the place of control;
  • number and date of the customs declaration  or similar document for identification of the consignment).

Importer’s application for the food safety control of a consignment shall be accompanied at least by the following documents:

  • document issued by the responsible authority of the exporting country certifying that the consignment of food is safe (health certificate);
  • written statement containing data on the kind, content and purity of raw materials, chemical products, additives, aromas and other substances used in the production of the food in question (producer specification);
  • evidence of origin of gelatinous and other materials in contact with the food from Article 12, paragraph 5 of the Food Safety Law (“Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia”, No. 41/09), where the food is packed in such materials (in capsules, for example);
  • report on laboratory analysis relating to food safety carried out by the producer and/or supplier;
  • translation of the whole declaration of the product;
  • confirmation Agency for Medicines and Medical Devices, that the products in question are not subject to control under the Law on Medications and Medical Devices. 
  • written evidence  issued by the responsible authority of a producing country on the form of registration of the preparations in question (supplementary medicinal product or medication, dietetic product or other kind of food);
  • written evidence of the application of the producer self-control system (HACCP, BRC, IFS, ISO 22000:2005 etc.) if the company producing the food operates in accordance with the above-mentioned concept and standards.

The importer shall submit other necessary documents if the sanitary inspector so requests.


All documents shall be submitted as photocopies of originals. Documents in foreign languages shall be translated into Serbian language by an authorized judicial interpreter. 


Request for control of import consignments of food and objects of general use are subject to the fee. The fee is payable to the appropriate bank account in the Budget of the Republic of Serbia.


Control of food safety includes:

  • review of documentation;
  • determination of hygienic conditions under which a consignment was transported;
  • physical examination of a consignment in the transportation means or at the warehousing place;
  • organoleptic examination of a consignment;
  • taking samples of the consignment for laboratory examinations.

It is obligatory to keep the record on inspection and eventual samples taking for laboratory verification of food safety. Where consignments are subject to only organoleptic examination, taking into account all necessary accompanying documents, it is obligatory to keep the record on inspection.


Sampling and analysis for verification of food safety purposes

Pending the adoption of the new regulations on sampling, sampling methods are based on the existing Guidelines on Sampling for the Purpose of Analysis and Super-analysis of Food and Objects of a General Use (“Official Journal of the SFRY” No. 60/78)


The food business operators (importers) whose products are object of sampling and analysis, shall have the right to additional expert opinion (super-analysis), which should not delay the application of emergency measures in case of sudden hazard.


When samples of food are taken, the food business operator (importer) shall place at the disposal of the responsible inspector free of charge the necessary quantity of samples for laboratory testing purposes. 


Samples shall be treated and marked in the prescribed manner in order to ensure their intactness and suitability for the required analyses. 


The costs of analysis and super-analysis of all samples shall be borne by the party from which the sample was taken where it is established in the final procedure that it does not conform to the prescribed requirements. If a sample conforms to the prescribed requirements, the costs of laboratory analysis and super-analysis shall be covered from the funds allocated from the Budget of the Republic of Serbia.


The proceeding of a sanitary inspector after the control of food safety 


After having performed the necessary examinations, the sanitary inspector shall take the final decision on food safety.


If a sanitary inspector, on the basis of the control, founds that a consignment meets all conditions prescribed by the Law on Food Safety, the sanitary inspector shall:

  1. Permit the import of the consignment by taking the decision in the first instance of administrative proceeding.
  2. If during the control of imported food safety a sanitary inspector finds that a consignment does not meet all conditions provided for in the Law referred to above, or in by-law regulations, he will apply Article 77, paragraph 1, point 9 and 10, in performing of the duties from Article 73 of the Law, the  sanitary inspector shall:    
  • prohibit the importation and order the return of  the consignment to the sender,
  • order destruction of unsafe food, if the consignment cannot be returned to the sender, and take a written decision about that.

Appeal against the decisions of sanitary inspector may be filed to the Minister responsible for public health (second-instance authority) within eight days from receipt of the decision. Appeal against the decision of sanitary inspector shall not delay the execution of the decision. The costs of destroying or returning the unsafe food shall be borne by the party concerned. 




Goods/articles of general use include the following:

  1. utensils, cutlery, devices, packaging and other materials getting into contact with food in compliance with the law that regulates food safety matters;
  2. toys and products for children and infants;
  3. cosmetic products, cosmetic products for special use and packaging for these products;
  4. products which during the use thereof come into direct contact with skin or mucosae, products for decoration of face and body, for piercing and tattooing.  
  5. agents for maintenance of hygiene in households and industry, including those used in the production and placement of food on the market, disinfectants and insecticides for use in households, 
  6. baby diapers, sanitary napkins, accessories for babies (pacifiers, teethers, high chairs and other products which according to their nature of use are not classified as toys and materials that come in contact with food, but are used for infant and child care)
  7. diving masks and goggles and similar products, 
  8. tobacco, tobacco products, smoking accessories, electronic cigarettes and cartridges for e-cigarettes.
Importers and domestic producers are all subject to sanitary control. In accordance with the sanitary inspection plan, domestic companies dealing with production and trade in goods of general use are all subject to sanitary checks pursuant to powers and competences of the sanitary inspectorate.


Sanitary control in import does not have adverse effects to free circulation of goods and products of general use through the border, because after the check (which lasts for 30 minutes maximally and is carried out immediately, but in any case not later than 2 hours from the submission of request for the consignment control), the consignment in import is not retained in customs office and customs warehouses, i.e. on transport vehicle, but customs clearance procedure is allowed for the consignment and placement thereof into the importer’s or user’s warehouse.

Most of the consignments are reported to sanitary inspectors for control by the importer, since the consignments are already placed in the importer’s storage, which excludes any retention at the border or any technical barrier. The control is carried out:

  • at the border
  • within one of the premises where customs clearance procedure is applied, where there are sanitary inspectors, i.e. where there are conditions for work of sanitary inspectors.

Custom authorities cannot conduct the customs clearance procedure for placement of goods into free circulation without the ruling issued by sanitary inspector, approving the import of goods of general use. Customs authorities can, at the importer’s request, conduct customs clearance procedure of the consignment of goods of general use which is under the health supervision procedure before issuing a ruling on the approval of import, if the consignment has been subject to laboratory testing, results of which have not yet been available, based on the written approval made by the sanitary inspector.


The importer of goods of general use shall inform the territorially competent sanitary inspector for import of goods about the arrival of the imported consignment, immediately upon the arrival thereof. Such information shall be sent either directly or through the importer’s representative. This obligation shall be met by the importer through submission of written request for each and every received consignment. The importer requests the control of the received consignment being imported, listing the following data:

  1. names and precise addresses of the consignor, importer and user,
  2. contents and weight of the consignment,
  3. state and type of packaging, as well as number of packaging units,
  4. mark of the transport means (ship, wagon, car, etc.),
  5. declaration and intended use of the consignment,
  6. possible accidents during the transport,
  7. name and address of the organisation bearing costs for the analysis,
  8. time when the consignment will be prepared for check and venue of the check,
  9. number and date of administrative document (SAD or similar document for identification of the consignment).

The importer shall submit the following documents along with the request for check:

  1. document issued by competent authority from the exporting country stating that the consignment of goods for general use is safe in health terms;
  2. specification of products if according to the invoice the consignment contains several different articles;
  3. manufacturer’s specification for chemical substances, additives and similar articles;
  4. translated declaration of the product in original packaging and other documents possibly needed for conducting of procedure for determination of health safety of products subject to the control;
  5. administrative fee, pursuant to the Law on Administrative Fees. The fee is paid to the current account for the benefit of the Republic of Serbia budget;
  6. fee for the consignment check – the importer shall pay the amount prescribed by the Order on the amount and manner of payment of fees for costs incurred in determination of health safety of foodstuff and goods for general use being imported.



 A sanitary inspection check includes the following:

  1. documentation check – implies the control of submitted request in terms of provided data, as well as submitted annexes;
  2. determination of hygienic conditions under which the consignment has been delivered;
  3. physical check of the consignment on the transport vehicle or in the storage;
  4. organoleptic check of the consignment;
  5. sampling of subject consignment for laboratory testing. 

The check of the received consignment on the spot includes determination of hygienic conditions under which the consignment has been delivered, which implies check of the transport means (plane, wagon, truck, trailer, container, cistern...).


The check of transport conditions shall establish the following:

  1. hygienic maintenance of the vehicle
  2. whether the vehicle had been previously used for transport of other goods or at the moment of check the goods for general use are transported together with food or other goods (artificial fertilisers, pesticides, petrol, etc.)
  3. whether the structure of the transport means is appropriate to ensure and maintain hygienic safety
  4. transport time from the loading to the arrival to the border crossing point, i.e. to the place where the consignment is supposed to be checked.

Poor hygienic conditions of transport, in addition to other findings, can be the main reason for prohibition of import.


Physical check of the consignment on the transport means or in the storage includes the following:

  1. check of shapes and manner of the consignment packaging;
  2. determination of possible damages and accidents during the transport or storing;
  3. check of possible information contained in transport packaging declaration or other secondary packaging; 
  4. check for possible presence of insects, rodents or other pests (warehouse pests), i.e. presence of their traces...



Organoleptic check means testing of hygienic safety and quality (sensory assessment) using senses, and based on exterior appearance, colour, taste, smell, consistency, etc...


For this type of check, suitable manual accessorise can be used (magnifying glass, scalpel, scissors, different types of thermometers, paper indicator, etc.).


Organoleptic check is important, and sometimes it is sufficient for the assessment of health safety of goods for general use, i.e. safety of food, especially in cases when food articles due to microbiological, chemical and physical processes have changed their properties to the extent that they are not for use anymore.


If the consignment is in original packaging, organoleptic check should include packaging as well, because it can significantly affect health safety.


Organoleptic check of goods for general use can also reveal hygienic problems:

  1. if surfaces of utensils and cutlery are uneven, recessed, cracked, scratched, corroded, and generally with damaged protective layer or if colour peels, such utensils are deemed inappropriate for use
  2. for tin sheet products, tin coating can be damaged, porous or bubbled;
  3. varnished packaging can smell of remaining solvents; 
  4. hairs on toys and dolls’ hair must not fall off while shaking, cleaning or drawing them:
  5. toys must not be sharp-pointed, with sharp and saw-toothed edges;
  6. tobacco products can be moulded, infested with tobacco beetles or moths, they can take other smells or lose characteristic flavour.



Upon the conducted organoleptic test, the inspector shall take samples from the consignment for further laboratory testing.


The samples are taken in quantities, number and in the manner prescribed in Guidelines for sampling for analysing and super-analysing of foodstuff and goods for general use.


Samples for laboratory testing are taken always in two samplers, one of which is sent to authorised laboratory for the analysis, and the other, the so-called control sample, serves for super-analysis and is kept until the end of the procedure at the border sanitary inspector under appropriate conditions, duly sealed and labelled.


Sampling for purposed of laboratory testing is recorded in the minutes composed on a specific template in at least four copies, one of which is sent to the testing laboratory, one to the importer, one to the storage manager, while the remaining one is retained by the inspector.


The minutes on sampling are signed by the inspector who took the samples and present importer’s representative, or organisation from which the samples are taken, i.e. owner of subject foodstuff or goods for general use. 

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