The Food and Agricultural Import Regulations and Standards (FAIRS) report provides an overview of the food laws and regulatory environment in Tunisia as it relates to U.S. food and agricultural exports.
THIS REPORT CONTAINS ASSESSMENTS OF COMMODITY AND TRADE ISSUES MADE BY
USDA STAFF AND NOT NECESSARILY STATEMENTS OF OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT
Required Report - public distribution
GAIN Report Number: TS1209
Food and Agricultural Import Regulations and Standards -
2012 FAIRS Country Report
Sarah Hanson, U.S. Embassy, Tunis
Youssef Chahed, Agricultural specialist
The Food and Agricultural Import Regulations and Standards (FAIRS) report provides an overview of
the food laws and regulatory environment in Tunisia as it relates to U.S. food and agricultural exports.
The process of approving new and comprehensive food legislation has been disrupted by the Tunisian
revolution in 2011 and indefinitely postponed. Sections I, VI, VII, and the Appendix have all been
Section I. Food Laws:
The Tunisian food law that was drafted before the revolution has been indefinitely postponed and is
likely to be approved in 2013. This law was prepared by the Ministry of Commerce in accordance with
local and European food agencies and is currently under review. The law is expected to harmonize
Tunisian legislation with EU food regulation 178/2002. The recent announcement that Tunisia will have
access to the European Union advanced partner status next year will certainly hasten the ratification of
the law. The law is expected to encompass all principles, requirements, and procedures concerning food
and consumers’ safety. It will contain regulations on official controls, contaminants, additives, food
contact materials, and pesticides.
Pending the adoption of the new food law, Tunisian food legislation currently consists of several
general laws intended to organize the food sector and to protect consumers (law # 92-117, 1992).
Quarantine and phytosanitary requirements apply to unprocessed agricultural products of plant origin, as
well as the sanitary control of live animals and food products from animal origin as defined by laws #
92-72 and # 99-24, respectively. Food distribution and marketing are structured by law # 94-86 dated
July 23, 1994 which organizes market and retail services. Finally, law # 99-42 establishes the
procedures for seeds production, propagation, import, marketing and protection of the rights relating
thereto. These laws are implemented through a set of food regulations referred to as decrees or
‘Arrêtés’. Food control activities are coordinated by the National Agency of the Sanitary and
Environmental Control of Products (ANCSEP) created in 1999. The ANCSEP also ensures the
observance of national and international standards in matters of sanitary and environmental food
Tunisia has made significant progress toward reforming its trade policy and reducing barriers facing
trade of agricultural and food products. The law #94-41 liberalized trade and abolished the import-
licensing regime to ensure compliance with WTO trade rules. A large majority of goods can be freely
imported to Tunisia, with only 3 percent of imported products needing prior authorization. Products
under the free imports regime need an import certificate supported by commercial documentation in
order to be cleared, while products not included in the free regime require an import authorization
granted by the Ministry of Commerce that generally lasts for 12 months. To obtain this license, a
number of documents are required, such as the commercial contract (or other equivalent documents), as
well as information about the contracting parties, the products, their origin and where they come from.
Export companies and companies operating under the free trade zone regime can import freely without
these requirements. The highest tariffs are applied to fruits, vegetables, and other imported agricultural
products that compete with domestic products. Non tariff barriers such as quotas still exist for many
Section II. Labeling Requirements:
The Tunisian Ministry of trade published a new Order in September 2008 revising the old departmental
Order dated July 22, 1985 and laying out labeling requirements regarding pre-packaged foodstuffs and
consumer-ready food products. The Order does not apply to bulk and intermediate foods products
intended for further processing.
II-A General Requirements
The 2008 Ministry of Trade’s Order stipulates that any pre-packaged foodstuff has to be labeled in order
to be marketed. Labels shall be applied in such manner that they will not become separated from the
container and should avoid any misleading or confusing indications. Arabic has to be one of the
languages used for product labeling (decree #2003-1718) while the measuring system in use is the
international metric system. If pork meat, pork fat, beef fat or alcohol is one of the ingredients it should
be clearly mentioned on the label. Labeling is also mandatory for all foods and food ingredients
containing biotech products. An obligation exists to inform consumers when genetic engineering
methods of production are involved (Principe de precaution). However, this obligation is not enough
clear and doesn’t give sufficient details on the type of products involved, the percentage of biotech
product authorized and the authority in charge of the enforcement. In general the following particulars
are mandatory on the labeling:
The name of the food product, the country of origin, the name and address of the manufacturer,
packager, importer, and/or distributor.
Full list of ingredients in descending order of predominance. Ingredients that are supposed to be
at the origin of allergy should be conspicuously labeled. This includes all cereal containing
gluten, soybean, dairy products and shell fruits. Any ingredients that were obtained through
biotechnologies should also be indicated in the labeling.
Net content: to be indicated using the international metric system in units of volume in the case
of liquids, units of mass in the case of other products. Food items packed in a liquid medium
shall carry an indication of the net drained weight.
Time limit for use or time limit for optimum use: the date of production and date limit for
perishable food products has to be clearly indicated (dd/mm/yy). It is prohibited to import a food
product that has exceeded half of its time limit for use. For goods having a shelf life of 3 months
or more the mention of the month and the year is sufficient. For non-perishable goods a time
limit for optimum use must be indicated using one of the following wordings: to be consumed
preferably before…/ to be consumed preferably before end of…/ to be consumed preferably
within a period of...
Storage instructions: indications such as ‘keep in a cool place, protect from light or from
dampness’ must be indicated when necessary.
II-B Specific Requirements to Nutritional Labeling
A new regulation partially inspired of the EC regulations of 2006 on the use of nutrition and health
claims for foods was adopted in Tunisia in 2008. This Regulation lays out rules for the use of health or
nutritional claims (such as “low fat” and “helps lower cholesterol”) on foodstuffs based on nutrient
profiles by means of positive lists of authorized claims that can be made on food. Health claims are
prohibited on food intended for babies and children. Nutritional labeling of vitamins, minerals and other
nutrients is mandatory when a producer is making health or dietary claims on the label. This provision
applies to fortified products and to food items intended for particular use (e.g. infant formula).
Otherwise, nutrition information is voluntary.
II-C Food Quality Label
A recent decree by the Ministry of Ministry of Industry and Technology (Decree #2010-2525-JORT
N°080) that was published on September 28, 2010 establishes for the first time labeling for quality of
consumer-oriented products. The new label, which is called the Food Quality label, will be granted to
products that meet certain quality attributes as Traditional and Superior products. The first group of
products to benefit from the quality labeling includes bottled olive oil, sardines, and dates. A special
committee called the “Committee of label quality" is created within the Ministry of Industry and
Technology and will be in charge of granting, monitoring and suspending the quality labels for the
Section III. Packaging and Container Regulations:
Materials intended to come into contact with foodstuffs, i.e. packaging materials, must meet Tunisian
standards and bear a food grade international logo shown below (Decree #2003-1718 of August, 2003).
This requirement entails either clearly stating on the container a short message such as ''material fit for
food contact" or featuring the food grade logo.
Section IV. Food Additives Regulations:
Departmental Order dated Mai 20, 1998 relating to the validation of Tunisian standard NT 117-01
(1995) governs the use of food additives. The purpose of this Order is to give an exhaustive listing of
authorized additives (positive list), their conditions of use as well as their respective identification E-
numbers. This standard is largely based on European regulations (directive 94/35/CE on sweeteners for
use in foodstuffs, directive 94/36/CE on colors for use in foodstuffs, and directive 95/2/CE on food
additives other than colors and sweeteners).
Section V. Pesticides and Other Contaminants:
The trade, distribution and use of pesticides for agricultural purposes have been systematically regulated
in Tunisia since 1961. The last amendments to this law were approved in 1992 (law # 92-72). Any
pesticide that is imported or formulated in the country has to be registered and officially authorized by
the laboratory of the Ministry of Agriculture (Laboratoire de Contrôle et d’Analyse des Pesticides,
created in 1985). In 1994, the decree #94-1744 made the control of the formulation of imported
pesticides mandatory. Obligatory labeling items are set by the law, particularly the necessity to use
French and Arabic language. Tunisian imports of pesticides amount to 3600 tons per year with more
than 725 pesticides distributed in the market.
The laboratory of the National Institute for Nutrition of the Ministry of Public Health (Laboratoire de
l’Institut National de Nutrition) and the Central Laboratory of the Ministry of Industry (Laboratoire
Central) are responsible for pesticide residue analysis in foodstuffs. Maximum pesticide residues
tolerated in food items are set in the Tunisian standard NT 117-03 enacted in 1983 and technically
equivalent to the Codex Alimentarius Standard #100-1981 (Codex CAC/RS 100-1978). It must be noted
that Tunisian MRL could differ from the Codex MRL in case of a particular threat to the Tunisian
consumer's health is identified.
In addition to pesticides, Tunisia also sets admissible maximum limits for other contaminants in
foodstuffs, such as metals, metalloids, aflatoxines (B1, B2, G1, G2, M1, M2, ochratoxine and
histamine). Maximum limits are laid out in Tunisian standard NT 117-02.
The implementation of these regulations is not always rigorous, particularly the regulations that govern
labeling, conditioning, handling, transport and storage of agricultural and food products. The National
Institute for Statistics (Institut National des Statistiques -INS) has reported the importation of banned
compounds such as DDT that were not authorized by the Ministry of Agriculture or Public Health has
occurred in many instances. Moreover, investigations have shown that banned compounds were still
being illegally imported from neighboring countries where their use has not been prohibited.
Section VI. Other Regulations and Requirements:
Principal other requirement for the majority of food products is the technical quality control prior to
customs clearance. Importers must apply for a consumption authorization document called ‘Autorisation
de Mise à la Consommation’ (AMC). The list of the products concerned by the technical control is
regularly published in departmental orders. In general it focuses more on ready-use foods and beverages
rather than products shipped in bulk in a protecting consumer approach. In general, products submitted
to the technical check are the imported products intended for sale in its state and for the final
consumption. However products free from the procedures of the technical check include raw materials,
semi-finished materials intended for the professional use of the importer in the framework of his
industrial, agricultural, craft or touristic activity and also the imported samples
The decree #94-1744 of 29 August 1994 amended in September 2010 (#55-2010), published three lists
of imported goods that are subject to technical controls according to three distinct modalities:
1. List A includes all goods submitted to a systematic control i.e. a conformity assessment with or
without sampling for further laboratory testing to be undertaken at each shipment regardless of
whether the product has or has not been already tested in the past. This list includes virtually all
processed agricultural products,
2. List B includes products submitted to the so-called certification regime whereby customs
clearance is granted for goods accompanied by a certificate issued by the country of origin and
stating that those goods are in compliance with international standards. Agricultural products are
not among products subject to the certification regime.
3. List C includes products submitted to a conformity assessment with the conditions defined by a
GOT-sanctioned specifications book (Cahier des charges). Agricultural products submitted to
‘cahier des charges’ are, in their majority, bulk and intermediate agricultural products.
Conditions set out in ‘cahier des charges’ very often go beyond sanitary and phytosanitary
aspects and set out conditions about the importer’s eligibility in terms of storage capacity,
funding availability, production data disclosure, etc.
Dioxin and Radio-contamination
A certificate indicating the amount of dioxin residue is required for all imports of bulk and processed
food items. A certificate of non-contamination from radioactivity issued at the country of origin or
failing that delivered in Tunisia by the National Center for Radioprotection after testing is also
Tunisia is at a crossroads on biotechnology policy. Tunisian policymakers are aware of the potential for
biotechnology to address chronic problems such as crop disease, weed control, and irregularity of
rainfall. A draft law is currently under consideration to establish a legal framework for the importation,
commercialization, and usage of biotechnology in agriculture. However, this effort may be delayed by
skepticism on about the use of biotechnology and Tunisia's close commercial ties with Europe. Labeling
of food products and food ingredients containing genetically modified organisms (GMO) is mandatory.
An obligation exists to inform consumers when genetic engineering methods of production are involved
(Principe de precaution). However, this obligation is not sufficiently clear and does not give details on
the type of products involved, the percentage of biotech product authorized and the authority in charge
of the enforcement.
Tunisia has an environmental labeling requirement that applies for pre-packaged food items. So far this
requirement is only enforced for bottled water and soft drinks. Decree #97-1102 dated on June 2, 1997
mandates for a national system managed by the ANPE, the National Agency for Environmental
Protection, to collect and recycle used packaging. The manufacturer or the importer has three options to
comply with this regulation:
Tacking back and recycling the used packaging
Entrusting the implementation of this obligation to an approved companies on a contractual basis
Enrolling in the state-owned recycling system, which gives the right to print the Eco-lef logo on
the product’s label.
Section VII. Other Specific Standards:
The Tunisian Office of Cereals (the Grain Board) still enjoys a monopoly on the importation of durum
wheat, soft wheat and barley. Physical, chemical as well as phytosanitary requirements are usually laid
down in a tender document referred to as ‘cahier des charges’. The latter stipulates that in case wheat is
originated in the United States, the required quality is the one defined by the USDA/FGIS relevant
standards for the grade mentioned in contracting documents. In 2012, the GOT decided to harmonize
the quality requirements for imported and locally produced wheat. In a decree (#2012-621) issued in
June 2012, the ministry of agriculture outlined all details required for importing wheat (soft and durum).
Concerning corn, imports has been liberalized since the mid-90s. Technical and phytosanitary
requirements are defined by an Order jointly issued on January 11, 1997 by ministers of Agriculture,
Finance and Commerce.
B. MILK PRODUCTS
Title V, Chapter III of Law # 2005-95 dated October 18, 2005 sets legal conditions relating to milk
production, processing and marketing. Some of the applicable standards are listed below:
TS 14-01 Milk definition
TS 14-02 Raw and natural milk
TS 14-28 Determination of milk density
TS 14-32 Determination of milk fat content
Most of the milk being processed or imported into Tunisia is essentially semi-skimmed, UHT (Ultra
High Temperature), thus permitting dairy plants to recover fats for butter production. A new sanitary
certificate for exporting U.S. dairy products to Tunisia has been successfully negotiated between
USDA/FDA and the Tunisian regulatory authorities.
B-1 Dry milk
Import of dry or powdered milk, which is subject to a quotas allocation system run by the Ministries of
industry and Commerce, shall be undertaken according to specifications set in the so-called ‘Cahier des
Charges’. Quotas are allocated on the basis of the annual requests presented by the end-users (cheese
and yoghurt processors). Importing out of the quotas is almost impossible with a duty of 300%. The
volume of the quotas was around 3000T for 2012.
C. ANIMAL FEED
The Ministers of Agriculture, Public Health and Commerce Orders dated July 29, 1999 and September
12, 2001 lay down rules for feed production and marketing. To import ingredients for compound feed
production, importers are required to maintain a register showing:
- Name and quantities of imported ingredients
- Name and address of supplier
- Date of production of ingredients
- Name and address of buyer
- Quantities and numbers of lots of ingredients sold or in stock
- Analysis certificates giving contents of noxious elements
In addition, the same decree defines:
- Marketing and labeling regulations
- And animal feeds quality controls. The first Tunisian public laboratory for feed control is under
construction and will begin operating in 2013. This will help improve Tunisia’s control of imported feed
consisting of mainly corn and soybean.
D. Feed Additives
The list and conditions of production and marketing of additives used as feed constituents are set by the
Ministers of Public Health, Agriculture and Commerce Orders dated January 4, 1996 and September 7,
Additives that may be included in compound feeds are:
- Substances with anti-oxygen effects
- Coccidiostatics and medicinal substances
- Colorants, including pigments
- Emulsifying, stabilizing, thickening and jellying matters
- Vitamins and provitamins
- Conservation agents
- Binding, coagulating and anti-lumping agents
- Growth factors
- Aromatic substances
- Acid regulators
E. Live Animals/ Animal Semen
An import health certificate approved by the Tunisian Veterinary service must accompany all shipments
of live animals (dairy heifers and bull-calves) as well as animal semen to Tunisia. At the present time,
U.S exports of live animals to Tunisia are almost non-existent, partly due to the lack of the import
Imports of bovine and sheep meat are governed by a set of specifications (cahier des charges) included
in a model health certificate that has not been established between Tunisia and the United States. It is
important to know that slaughtering according to the Halal ritual is mandatory and that meat from
hormone-fed animals cannot be allowed into the country.
G. Plant Products
Imports of seeds and seedlings must comply with Decrees #2002-621 and #2004-2179, dated March 19,
2002 and September 14, 2004, respectively. These decrees set rules to import all seeds and seedlings.
Of particular interest is the impact of systematic technical controls applied to planting seed imports.
These imports are subject to a redundant system of phytosanitary controls. This delays clearance by
several weeks in some cases, making the seeds not available for farmers at sowing time or obliges them
to sow late. Apart from the phytosanitary aspects, main provisions are the obligation for the importer to
apply for a license, to have a minimum storage capacity and to keep records for its inventories. Seeds
and seedlings covered by these decrees are: potato, citrus, strawberry, pulses, horticultural seeds,
forages, cereals and vines.
F. Fruits (Apple)
According to a decree initially published in August 1992 and confirmed in May 2012 (#2012-45),
imports of several fruits including apples into Tunisia are banned. The reason for the ban is to prevent
the spread of Fire blight (Erwinia amylovora) which is a contagious disease that affects apple and pear
cultivations. It is worth mentioning that despite the official ban there are apples imported illegally into
Tunisia, though in small quantities. The Tunisian Ministry of Agriculture has no intention of removing
this import ban soon. The 2012 decree includes other fruits from the citrus family, as well as, palm
Section VIII. Copyright and/or Trademark Laws:
Tunisia has a copyright law (law #94-36 dated February, 1994). The Law establishes the Tunisian
Institution for the Protection of Copyright (Organisme Tunisien de Protection des Droits d’Auteur). The
Institution has several functions, including the protection of copyright. According to Article 18 of the
Law, the copyright shall be valid during the author's lifetime and shall continue for fifty calendar years
after the author's death. The law established monetary sanctions for violations or infringements. A
person who violates the law may be obliged to pay fines ranging from $ 500 to $5,000.
Tunisia is a member of WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) and has signed most WIPO
conventions. The law # 2001-36 enacted on March 17, 2001 protects trademarks and brand names.
Registration with the National Institute for Standardization and Industrial Property (INNORPI) is
required to obtain protection and is normally issued upon filling an application for registration. A
trademark registration is valid for fifteen years from the date on which the application for registration is
filled. It may be renewed indefinitely for similar periods of time. Tunisia does not require use of a
trademark as a condition for maintaining registration.
Section IX. Import Procedures:
In addition to phytosanitary and sanitary certificates, the majority of consumer-oriented food products
are subject to a technical quality control prior to customs clearance mandated by decree # 94-1744 dated
August 1994. In order to expedite customs clearance, the importer is entitled to a temporary document
called “Autorisation Provisoire d’Enlevement (APE)”, pending dossier instruction but must refrain from
distributing or further processing the imported good until the AMC is delivered by the Ministry of
Commerce, Directorate of Quality and Consumer Protection.
Local agents/distributors are crucial to introducing new products into the Tunisian market. Both
commission agents and distributors may represent foreign businesses in Tunisia. The agency-principal
relationship is governed by article 625 and 626 of the Commercial Code of Tunisia. Tunisian law
prohibits the flow of currency out of Tunisia as payment for imports before documents are presented to
the issuing bank confirming that the merchandise has entered the country. Imports have to be domiciled
at a bank in order to make international payments in hard currency. The process of customs clearance is
composed of two essential operations:
It should be noted that in 2010 Tunisia upgraded its electronic trade information systems that allowed a
faster way for assembling import and export documents.
Since 2001, import declarations could be completed on-line with the Tunisian customs office. As a
result, the time required to make an import declaration has been reduced significantly to 45 minutes.
The declaration consists in an application form which has to be submitted along with the following
Commercial invoice: Since October 2006, customs clearance requires domiciliation of the
commercial invoice with an approved financial intermediary (i.e. commercial bank).
Bill of lading
Technical notice describing the product
Other document (s) at the discretion of the Authorities
2- Custom control
All merchandise that arrives for entry are systematically sorted by the information system of customs
called SINDA (Système d’information douanier automatisé) according to certain criteria, particularly
the type of the product and the importer. The products are then inspected accordingly to the procedures
described in section VI in order to receive the approval for market distribution (Autorisation de Mise â
la Consommation). This operation can take up to 20 days depending on the product. The entire customs
clearance process for a product imported under the free regime takes, on average, less than 12 days.
Customs fees are assessed at about 3%.
Appendix I. Government Regulatory Agency Contacts:
Directorate General for Veterinary services (DGSV)
Ministry of Agriculture, Environment and Hydraulic Resources
30, rue Alain Savary, 1002, Tunis, Tunisia
Phone: 216 71 786 833
Directorate General for Agricultural Production (DGPA)
Ministry of Agriculture, Environment and Hydraulic Resources
30, rue Alain Savary, 1002, Tunis, Tunisia
Phone: 216 71 786 833
Directorate General for Crop Protection and Quality of Agricultural Products (DGPCQPA)
Ministry of Agriculture, Environment and Hydraulic Resources
30, rue Alain Savary, 1002, Tunis, Tunisia
Phone: 216 71 786 833
Directorate General of Customs
Directorate of Quality and Consumer Protection (DQPC)
Ministry of Commerce
Address: 37, av. Keireddine Pacha, 1002 Tunis
Phone: (216) 71 890-070 / 890 337
National Agency of the Sanitary and Environmental Control of Products (ANCSEP)
Ministry of Public Health
Adresse : Appt. Idriss - 3ème Etage - Bloc N°9 - Cité Elmhiri - Berges du Lac - 2045 Tunis
Phone : +216 71 960 222
E-mail : email@example.com
Institut National de Normalisation et de Propriété Industrielle (INNORPI)
Standards setting and intellectual property enforcement authority
BP 23 - 1012 Tunis Belvédère
Phone: 216 71 785 922
Fax: 216 71 781 563
The Packaging Technical Centre (PACKTEC)
Address : Cité El Khadra, par la rue Alain SAVARY. BP 64 .1003 Tunis.
Tel. : +216 71 772 755
Fax. : +216 71 773 300
Email : Packtec@packtec-tunisia.com
Institut National des Statistiques (INS)
Trade and demographic statistics
Phone: 216 71 891 002
Fax (216) 71 792 559
E-mail : INS@mdci.gov.tn
US Embassy/ USDA-Foreign Agricultural Service Contacts
Sarah, Hanson Regional Agricultural Attaché (Resides in Rabat, Morocco)
Phone : 212 53776 5987
Fax : 212 53 776 5493