Belgium proposes legal changes on self-checking and food supplements

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Legislative changes in Belgium's General Food Law Act could see changes to existing rules on the maximum levels for various nutrients, while for some nutrients the maximum levels could be removed entirely.

Several legislative changes are expected in Belgium especially in the General Food Law Act, Regulation 852/2004 on the hygiene of foodstuffs and Regulation 882/2004 on official controls performed to ensure the verification of compliance with feed and food law, animal health and animal welfare rules, said Aude Mahy, a lawyer at Loyens & Loeff specialising in Food and Commercial Law.

“The principle issues relate to the fact that certain thresholds for vitamins, especially for vitamin C, have been put up,” she told NutraIngredients.

Mahy says this could create problems in respect to the free movement of goods and also compliance of this possible new Belgian legislation with EU legislation.

“This can be an issue especially when you look at The Netherlands, where there is only vitamin  D which is regulated with a specific threshold,” Mahy said, [if the proposed legislation is adopted] we would be in a very different situation compared to the one in The Netherlands, so the practice will tell us how it is”.

Mutual Recognition

Similarly, the draft proposes that food supplements which are legally produced or marketed in another EU Member State will no longer be subject to maximum thresholds.

Currently this is not the case, and the Royal Decree of food supplements requires a prior notification procedure for foreign products being marketed in Belgium.

“What is interesting in this draft is that Belgium especially includes in the law the principle of mutual recognition and a special consideration for food business operators importing their products from other EU Member States to be able to communicate with authorities on the legality of their products in other Member States,” Mahy explained.

Mahy continued to explain that this proposed legislation is good because it means new thresholds are not applicable to products that legally marketed or produced in another EU Member State.

However it depends on how the mutual recognition will be applied in practice.

The draft legislation on supplements is currently subject to discussion by the Commission and has so far raised questions from Hungary and several stakeholders in the TRIS notification database.

Self-Checking

The system of self-checking can also be expected to change, Mahy says for the better.

“To me, this regulation goes towards a further and better harmonisation and clarification of the self-checking system for the operators,” she explained.

“Food business operators using Belgian labs will be in a position that is more fair with respect to their competitors calling upon foreign laboratories, in terms of the obligations of the laboratories to notify the food safety agency when there is any food safety issue”.

Currently, food business operators using Belgian laboratories are under an obligation to notify their local agency when they have reasons to believe that a product they have imported, produced, cultivated, grown, processed, manufactured or distributed may be unsafe for human, animal or plant health.

Belgian food businesses using foreign laboratories are not under this same constraint.

“To ensure a fair market and competition, this obligation should be for all operators regardless of where the labs are that they call upon,” Mahy said.

The proposed legislation creates a mandatory contractual obligation for foreign laboratories to share their research results with the Belgian Food Safety Agency (AFSCA/FAVV).

The proposal is to ensure a high level of food safety throughout the food chain and to ensure a fair market.

As the draft legislation is subject to change before being adopted it is unknown when it will come into effect.

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