Almost 4,500 kilograms of food has been confiscated by the Belgian food safety agency. The agency stressed it has continued efforts to protect public health since control measures for coronavirus were put in place in mid-March.

Vehicle inspections by a unit of the Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain (FASFC) have led to four vans being seized and the destruction of 4,450 kilograms (almost 10,000 pounds) of food such as meat, fish and cheese in the past week.

Most of the violations were because of non-compliance with temperatures required by the regulations. Transporting food in excessively high temperature conditions can lead to contamination and food poisoning for consumers, said officials.

The FASFC unit monitored the transport of food at the borders with police and customs officials. Violations were noted in 23 of the 142 vehicles checked.

Modified controls continue
Normally, about 320 checks are done daily by the FASFC. This situation has been adapted because of the coronavirus pandemic with a focus on high priority controls, such as the follow-up of complaints, non-conformities, and import and export checks.

Food sector companies have been allowed to set up a delivery service without needing to submit an authorization request to FASFC. Normally, such procedures are compulsory, take from days to a few weeks depending on the case, and involve additional administrative procedures and expenses.

Minister of Agriculture Denis Ducarme said protecting consumer health remains a priority for FASFC during the pandemic.

“The agency also stands fully alongside companies impacted by the coronavirus, either through its advisory mission or through the administrative simplification measures put in place,” he said.

More than 8,200 shipments of imported food, plants and live animals have been checked by FASFC inspectors in various ports and airports since March 18.

Focus on supplements and allergens
FASFC is one of many European agencies to warn about people taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic by selling counterfeit food supplements online. Officials said the agency had intercepted “several” packages containing such supplements supposed to protect against COVID-19.

FASFC has also encouraged the hotel, restaurant and catering (HORECA) sector to take up an offer of support to understand the rules around communicating about food allergens to consumers.

In 2018, almost 40 percent of traders were unable to correctly inform customers about allergens in foods such as restaurant dishes or items served from food trucks. In the distribution and catering sectors, non-compliance with allergen legislation is the main cause of problems during controls.

FASFC has also been involved in the seizure of batches of suspected non-compliant pesticides at the port of Antwerp.

Implicated products, from India or China, were intended for the European market. An FASFC unit was involved in an operation with port and customs authorities, other EU countries and Europol.

The seizure was part of an investigation into the presence of non-conforming or suspect substances in plant protection products, herbicides and fungicides. From samples taken and risk analyzes, it was shown the products do not present a risk to the consumer. The total quantity of products seized was 778 tons.

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