The temporary documents have been designed by the government to satisfy EU requirements on meat products entering the bloc during the six-month grace period.
However from 1 July exports of sausages, mince and pate-type products are set to be banned altogether under strict laws on animal and plant health – unless the EU and UK can reach an agreement.
Bans on other GB agri-food products – including seed potatoes, certain seeds, and plants potted in soil – have already been in force since the start of the year.
Under the terms of the Northern Ireland protocol, which governs the movement of goods in and out of the region post-Brexit, all non-prohibited agri-food goods arriving from GB require an EU export health certificate (EHC) declaring that they pose no risk. There are hundreds of different types of EHCs, with different forms for different products.
As sausages and other chilled meat products are not ordinarily allowed to be imported into the EU under the bloc’s tight SPS (sanitary and phytosanitary) regulations, there is no EHC covering those goods.
As a result, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has developed its own temporary version, to satisfy EU requirements during the six month grace period when their import is still permitted.
There was no initial requirement for certifications on these restricted products when the protocol came into operation on 31 December after the Brexit transition period ended.
That changed on Monday 22 February, with traders now requiring Defra’s version of an EHC for sausages and mince.
EHCs have been required for non-retail agri-food products entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain since 1 January.
That has included unprocessed food stuffs – such as chicken carcasses, tankers of milk and sides of beef – being imported into the region to undergo processing.
Retail products have been exempted from this requirement under a grace period that will expire on 1 April.
From that date, GB-made agri-food products that are usually found on supermarket and shop shelves in Northern Ireland will need an EHC to be shipped to the region.
This includes all food of animal origin, some foods of non-animal origin (nuts, spices etc), live plants, other plant-based products and fish. Live animals and animal based food products require a vet to sign off the EHCs.
Products going to multiple destinations will also require multiple certifications. In theory, that could see a single lorry of retail goods requiring hundreds of EHCs.
Additional reporting by Press Association