Biocides are used to fight harmful organisms: by repelling them, rendering them harmless or destroying them.

They are used on various supports (disinfectants for floors or toilets, wood protection products, etc.) or act against living organisms (rodent poison, mosquito repellents, anti-mould products, etc.) with the exception of plants.

Plant treatment products (including insecticides, fungicides and herbicides) are phytopharmaceutical products, a separate category of chemical products.

By their nature, all biocides represent a risk of some sort for health and the environment.

That is why the sale and use of biocides is subject to an authorisation, a notification, or a registration. These conditions are set by legislation and specified in the authorisation acts

Furthermore, biocides should comply with strict standards in terms of classification, packaging, labelling, and advertising.

The Federal Environmental Inspection is in charge of verifying that the availability of biocides on the market and their use comply with the authorisation acts.

The inspections aim, in particular, to verify that:

  • the vendors are authorised to sell the biocidal product 
  • professional users that hold biocidal products are registered
  • biocidal products contain the active substances mentioned in the authorisation report
  • the rules concerning the storage and the traceability of biocidal products are respected
  • the documents concerning the biocidal product contain the mandatory information, for example on the invoices.
  • the rules on labelling, packaging and mentions used in advertising are respected.

The inspections also concern articles treated with biocidal products, such as, for example, clothing treated with mosquito repellents, shoes treated against bacteria, and even dust mite-proof mattresses.

Biocidal products sold in Belgium are controlled at retail and production sites as well as with professional users.

Control campaigns on biocides

In addition to routine checks, specific inspection campaigns are carried out. 
During the first months of 2021, extra controls were stepped up to encourage the sale of biocidal products that comply with Belgian legislation on the market. 

In 2020, since the start of the pandemic in Belgium, the demand for disinfectants and hydroalcoholic gels has boomed. Faced with a shortage of these products on the Belgian market, the Biocides Unit of the FPS Health granted 430 temporary authorisations for new gels and disinfectants during the first half of 2020.  These temporary authorisations have since been discontinued.  The biocidal products are effective to fight the coronavirus. However, due to their composition, they can be harmful to health and the environment. Because of these risks and the increasing number of reports of illegal products on the Belgian market, the inspectors of the FPS Health carried out an extensive inspection campaign. A substantial increase in illegal hand disinfectants, hydroalcoholic gels and surface disinfectants was observed and the pressure of inspections was strongly increased.

In total, 735 inspections were carried out over two periods (see table below).  During the first period, a broad communication on the biocides regulation was disseminated in order to inform new manufacturers, so that they would quickly bring their recent products up to the required standards.  The Environmental Inspectorate of the FPS Health checked the online and physical sales of disinfectants and hydroalcoholic gels. Checks were carried out at manufacturer's sites and in supermarkets, shops, pharmacies, and in particular places of use like schools. The inspectors checked the composition of the products, their authorisation for sale in Belgium, their labelling and whether the use of these products complied with the regulations.  Despite a high number of infringements in the first half of the year,  this number was even higher in the second period, from 43% to 58%,  in spite of extensive communication efforts. The lack of authorisation remains the most common infringement.

Period Inspection Sites  Total Infringements Compliant Percentage of infringements
09/03 - 30/06/2020 manufacturers, vendors, e-commerce 321 139 182 43%
01/07 - 31/12/2020 manufacturers, vendors, e-commerce 338 197 141 58%
01/07 - 31/12/2020 Schools 30 8 22 26%
01/07 -  31/12/2020 Import (Customs) 16 10 6 62%

In 2019, the inspections concerned biocides used against the Legionella bacteria and those used in hospital environments. Clothing that had been subject to a biocidal treatment was also checked. Furthermore, the inspections targeted the phytosanitary products used and sold by horticulturists. Inspectors visited biocide users in the field of disinfection, rat extermination and insect extermination. The campaign on e-commerce that was started in 2018, was continued in 2019.

In 2018, the phytolicences awarded to non-professional users were targeted. The closed circuit biocides used by professionals (approved sellers and users) were inspected and analyses were carried out on disinfecting biocidal products. Inspections were also conducted on biocidal and phytosanitary products offered for sale through e-commerce. In addition, the campaign regarding biocides used in the production of drinking water launched in 2017 continued.  

In 2017, the market surveillance targeted a wide variety of products, like anti-algae products, biocidal products used in children's nurseries, biocides used in the production of drinking water, insecticides and repellent products sold for the equestrian sector.