To ensure a high level of health protection, the foodstuffs on the market must meet the requirements of European and national regulations. These provisions are designed to guarantee food safety from production to distribution to consumers. Current food standards cover different aspects such as hygiene, labelling, traceability, presence of contaminants, etc.
Manufacturers are responsible for the safety of the products they put on the market. However, these products can still cause undesirable effects even if they are marketed in compliance with the legislation. This may be due, for example, to too high a quantity of an ingredient, or to an interaction with another ingredient or product.
FPS Public Health has set up a Nutrivigilance system in Belgium in view of the ever-increasing consumption of food supplements, novel foods, foods for specific groups and fortified foods, and the appearance of possible undesirable effects.
What is nutrivigilance?
Nutrivigilance is a food vigilance system managed by FPS Public Health whose main objective is to protect consumer health by rapidly identifying undesirable effects linked to the consumption of certain foodstuffs.
In Belgium, Nutrivigilance is regulated by two Royal Decrees, one on the notification of undesirable effects linked to the use of foodstuffs and one on the Nutrivigilance Commission.
What types of foodstuffs are covered by the nutrivigilance system?
Foodstuffs for specific groups
- Novel foods
Would you like more information on the different types of foodstuffs covered by Nutrivigilance? All the information can be found on the page: Types of foodstuffs concerned.
These food categories are regulated at the European and/or Belgian levels. Some of these foods are increasingly part of our daily diet, which is why they have been chosen for this food vigilance.
Nutrivigilance is in charge of undesirable effects linked to compliant food products. However, food poisoning resulting from contamination of foodstuffs - by bacteria, for example - does not fall within the scope of Nutrivigilance, as it is a quality defect and must be reported to the Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain (FASFC): FASFC - Consumer contact point (fasfc.be). These products may be the subject of a recall.
What types of undesirable effects must be reported?
Undesirable effects are harmful reactions which, in the case of nutrivigilance, are attributable to the consumption of the above-mentioned foodstuffs.
All undesirable effects can be reported, regardless of their nature and level of severity. For example: rash, intestinal cramps, weight loss, hypertension, hepatitis, fever, headaches, altered blood markers, kidney failure, gastro-oesophageal reflux, constipation, etc.
Reporting is compulsory for operators.
The report must concern products purchased on Belgian territory (also valid for products purchased over the Internet and received in Belgium).
Did you know that there are also systems for reporting undesirable effects to other products? You can report these reactions to the following departments, depending on the product-type:
- Pharmacovigilance: drug side effects: Reporting a drug side effect as a patient | FAMHP
- Materiovigilance: undesirable effects linked to the use of medical devices (health products with the CE marking): Materiovigilance | FAMHP
- Cosmetovigilance: undesirable effects related to the use of cosmetic products: Health professionals | FPS Public Health (belgium.be/en)
- Toxicovigilance: undesirable effects linked to the accidental ingestion of chemicals (household products, overdosed medicines, etc.): contact the Poison Control Centre: 070/245 245 (emergency number in the event of intoxication). Welcome to the Belgian Poisons Centre | Centre Antipoisons Belge
- In the event of food poisoning: undesirable effects following the ingestion of a contaminated foodstuff that is unfit for consumption. Contact the Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain (FASFC): FASFC - Contact point for consumers (fasfc.be)