Food law is extensively harmonized throughout the EU, but national law still has a role to play. In this short article, we look at two developments in Belgian food law that have taken place in 2023: the amendments to the Food Safety Agency’s administrative fining regime, as well as the announced revision of the food hygiene legislation.
1. amendments to the food safety agency’s administrative fining regime
The Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain (“FASFC”) is in charge of enforcing food law in Belgium. If a food law is violated, then the FASFC can issue an administrative fine in accordance with Chapter III of the Royal Decree of 22 February 2001 on FASFC’s control powers. The Law of 7 April 2023 has amended Chapter III of the Royal Decree by providing a more comprehensive outline of the steps of the fining procedure and the role of the different actors. The amendment is supplemented by the Royal Decree of 30 August 2023, which contains additional details.
There are a few noteworthy changes:
- When an infringement is established, the official report is first sent to the public prosecutor, who has the prerogative to initiate criminal proceedings.
- The statute of limitations is 5 years from the offence. But acts of investigation and prosecution carried out within this period, interrupt it and bring about a new 5-year period.
- The food business concerned can appeal the fining decision before the civil court of first instance. Such fining decisions are mostly an administrative matter. But the legislator has made the express choice to bring these cases before a civil court who will have full competence to examine the file as a whole (i.e. both factually and legally).
2. announced: revision of the food hygiene legislation
The Council of Ministers has announced an amendment to the Royal Decree of 13 July 2014 on food hygiene. Reportedly, the main amendments concern:
- Shelf life;
- The cold chain and storage conditions of foodstuffs in retail outlets;
- The general registration of treatments with biocides; and
- The abolition of pre-harvest checks for certain vegetables in the primary sector.
Currently, the Council of State is reviewing the draft Royal Decree.
Philippe de Jong