Massive criticism of the Belgian eco-control system
by Leo Frühschütz (comments: 0)
In September 2017, the EU's Directorate General for Health and Food Safety examined the Belgian eco-control system for the first time - and identified massive shortcomings. The report was not published until ten months later because the Belgian authorities took their time to reply.
Mild measures even in the case of serious infringements
In their report, the auditors of the Directorate General note that in Belgium the eco-control system has only been partially implemented. There is no competent authority for the control of imported organic food and the control bodies are not reviewed annually by all competent regional authorities. It is true that the controls in companies are effective and that the number of additional and unannounced controls as well as the number of samples taken exceed the EU minimum requirements by far. But enforcement is weak, “especially in cases of serious and repeated violations”. In the opinion of the auditors, this is mainly due to the fact that the catalogue of measures in force in Belgium only provides for mild measures such as notices and warnings, even in the event of serious irregularities. In addition, if irregularities were suspected, the control authorities would rarely be informed and the control bodies would not investigate the suspicion in detail.
Plants in Belgium certified organic despite grievances
As an example of weak enforcement, the report cites a company that repeatedly attracted attention because it had insufficiently separated conventional and organic goods. The input/output invoices for several organic products had not been correct. Furthermore, products that were not covered by the certificate have been marketed as organic. Nevertheless, the company had been recertified, the auditors complained. In several cases, the inspection bodies would have continued to certify farms, although deficiencies such as excessive stocking densities and lack of space in the barn had not been remedied.
The Belgian eco authority replied to the audit report at the beginning of April 2018 and promised to revise the catalogue of measures by 2019. Other points raised will be brought to the attention of the control bodies, according to the authority's statement on the audit report.