The federation that represents the hospitality industry in Brussels says it has received a deluge of panic calls from anxious restaurant owners since the announcement of confinement measures imposed by the federal government to stem the spread of the new coronavirus (Covid-19).
“We are swamped by a huge amount of questions from worried members,” said Philippe Trine, head of the Federation Horeca Bruxelles. Most of the establishments have simply closed their doors, but some have been switching to take-aways and “that is working”, according to the federation which said, however, that it did not have any figures at this stage.
The Federal Agency for the Security of the Food Chain, AFSCA, has allowed restaurants, on an exceptional basis, to do home deliveries or offer catering services, without needing prior authorisation. “On the other hand, some have gone the wrong way by taking their dishes to other businesses which then resell them,” Trine said. “That’s illegal, and the AFSCA will probably crack down on them soon.”
He added that, generally, the containers being used did not meet AFSCA standards and, in some cases, compulsory details were absent from labels. “Delegating sales to another business is different from catering,” he explained. “We are waiting to receive the official documents and to know what is accepted or not since there are many uncertainties.”
Given the present context, the Federation said it was calling on AFSCA to soften the rules while maintaining hygiene standards and without endangering people’s health.
AFSCA indicated on Friday that it had received no official request, but that it would not fail to consider the matter if one was submitted.
“It is important, for example, for consumers, particularly those with allergies, to have access to clear, correct information on the composition of the dishes they buy or order,” the federal agency’s spokesperson explained. “Similarly, the containers have to be compliant with the existing standards, namely they need to be suitable for the foods they contain.”
The Federation Horeca also welcomed the extension of temporary unemployment for part of the staff, and not only in the event of complete closures.