Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures

What are sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures? 

SPS measures consist of laws, decrees, regulations, requirements, and procedures that countries adopt to protect human, animal, or plant life or health against certain risks. These measures generally aim to promote food safety and protect against risks stemming from cross-border spread of contaminants, diseases, and pests affecting animals and plants.

Examples of SPS measures include: 

  • requirements for products to come from disease-free areas;
    specific treatment or processing of products; 
  • thresholds for pesticide residues; and 
  • permitted use of certain additives in food. 

SPS measures apply to domestic foods, local animals, and plants, as well as foreign products. For more information, see Understanding the WTO Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures

What are the types of SPS measures that can apply to imports? 

SPS measures can include six broad categories: 

  • prohibitions or restrictions of imports for sanitary and phytosanitary reasons; 
  • tolerance limits for residues and restricted use of substances; 
  • labelling, marking, and packaging requirements directly related to food safety; 
  • hygienic requirements related to sanitary and phytosanitary conditions; 
  • treatment for elimination of plant and animal pests and disease-causing organisms in the final product or prohibition of treatment; and 
  • other requirements relating to production or postproduction processes. 

In addition, SPS measures cover procedures to verify products meet SPS requirements. For a more comprehensive list of SPS measures, see the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s (UNCTAD) International Classification of Non-Tariff Measures.

How do I find information about the SPS measures that may apply to my products?

The exporter, or seller, is responsible for complying with all SPS requirements in the target market. Local trade agencies, industry associations, and chambers of commerce may offer newsletters, events, and online platforms for businesses to learn about SPS measures applicable to their products. 

Businesses can also use ePing, a joint initiative developed by the United Nations, the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the International Trade Centre (ITC). Through ePing alerts, businesses can receive notifications of new SPS requirements on their products and targeted markets or identify existing measures in their database. They can also participate in national forums where businesses and governments collaborate on addressing product and market requirements. Additionally, national enquiry points are notified to the WTO, who can help identify SPS and other trade measures (see the guide on enquiry/contact points). 

There may also be specific measures or procedures developed in RTAs (for further information, see the RTA Database).

What other tools can I use to identify SPS measures?

  1. SPS Information Management System (SPS IMS): This is a database of WTO information on SPS (SPS measures notified to the WTO, information on enquiry points, and other related data). Visit the SPS IMS.
  2. Global Trade Helpdesk: This provides an overview of product requirements for importers or exporters targeting foreign markets. Visit the Global Trade Helpdesk.
  3. Market Access Map: This displays specific SPS measures applicable to products that businesses may seek to import from targeted markets. Visit the map.
  4. Trade Analysis Information System (TRAINS): This presents an outlook of existing SPS measures worldwide and multiple features of non-tariff measures reported by 160 countries. Visit the TRAINS webpage. 
  5. World Integrated Trade Solution (WITS): This offers country profiles on SPS regulatory indicators, organized by product sectors. Visit the WITS.