"Stick to official bathing zones!"

The Flemish Environment Company (VMM) has warned against swimming in rivers or canals. The organisation says it's far better to swim in recognised bathing zones that have to comply with stringent norms.

The VMM's Katrien Smet: "It's better to swim in areas where the bathing water quality is tested as it has to meet far more stringent norms than general water quality. Tests are carried out on the presence of bacteria that can make you ill."

The matter is in the spotlight after Flemish youngsters had to abandon a scouting camp in Wallonia after some of their number became ill. Katrien Smet believes this is what probably happened there.

VMM checks 42 bathing zones on the coast as well as recognised bathing zones across inland Flanders. Water quality is clearly posted.

Katrien Smet: "When the quality is not good, the owner or on the coast the mayor is notified. A bathing ban is a possibility."

Official bathing zones can be recognised by the special notices: a smiley points to good quality bathing water. When the smiley is sad, it's best not to swim here.