This week he and the other hungaries participants welcome all the partners in Safeconsume to the General Assembly in Budapeset

Tell me a little bit about yourself?

I have an academic background in food safety risk communication and risk perception of consumers. Besides my work at NFCSO I still give lectures on food law and food safety risk management and communication at two universities in Budapest. Before I joined NFCSO I worked at the Ministry of Agriculture and then as a ministerial commissioner responsible for development of the Hungarian Food Chain Safety Strategy 2013-2022. My present engagement at NFCSO is mostly related to this strategy. We transform the strategical goals to projects. I take part in the management of the ones that relate to food safety risk communication, education and consumer research.

Do you have a favourite advice for keeping your food safe, what is it and why? What is your best advice to consumer on how to reduce the risks of food borne illness?

At shopping: Never buy food at suspicious places.  At home: Heat it up! If you can’t heat it up, be extra careful.  

How is the current situation, concerning food borne illnesses in your country?

As in other European countries, the prevalence of salmonellosis has decreased, but campylobacteriosis is still a challenge. Calicivirus and norovirus represent also important problems. Other infections are less prevalent. Generally we consider Hungary to be a very safe country to buy foods or to eat out. According to RASFF data, Hungarian products are safer than the EU average, and NFCSO controls also the imported goods. I think we should mention here that the EU average itself is a very high standard already, only a few regions in the world could compete with this level of food safety. The majority, more than 70% of the food borne illness events are caused by inadequate household food hygiene. But we have a definite uncertainty here. According to our calculations, only 1 person out of 40 turns to a doctor when experiencing signs of a susceptible food borne illness. Of course when experiencing more severe symptoms (for instance the effects of salmonellosis) this ratio is much higher. So, the final link of the food chain – the household – needs the most attention now. The second most significant source of risk is the food hygiene in the catering sector. While we experience a development at the level of owners and managers, the shortage of human resource at lower levels causes serious problems, entrepreneurs struggle to find trained chefs, cooks, assistants and waiters. Lack of competent human resource also hits the food processing sector, but they have certain options in field of technology to counterweight it.  

What is your role in SafeConsumE?

I participated actively even in the development phase of SafeConsumE, because the partners all felt that we reached a certain plateau at the efficacy of food safety risk communication, but this is still not a satisfactory level, and, disturbingly enough, we don’t really see, where to step next. This is what I also think. It was a very lively and thoughtful process, while we developed the project concept and then the application, and we could learn a lot from the others (I certainly did). After we received the favourable news about winning the H2020-SFS37-2016 call, I have been invited to join the Steering Board, so I have a good general overview on the project. With my other colleagues from NFCSO, we participate in 5 work packages and we organize one, which is about new policy models for risk communication.

What do you think will be the most important benefits/deliveries from SafeConsumE?

All of the work packages (WPs) are meaningful. But if I wanted to point out to only one outcome that will help the work of food safety authorities the most in the future, I would say that the “X-ray” study on household food safety practices (WP1-2-3) will be probably the most useful deliverable. This might be directly and also indirectly utilized for preventive risk communication campaigns. I also expect a valuable outcome to be delivered in field of children and youth education (WP6). We are prepared to translate and implement the materials for Hungarian schools as soon as they get ready. For my personal interest in risk communication I am looking forward the results of the efforts of WP6. Especially because this WP has managed to collect a top notch team from the leading EU experts and scholars of this field. WP7 on policy will pick up a lot of pieces of knowledge from the mentioned WPs and combine them with its own research data to draw up new risk communication perspectives (or preferably whole frameworks) for policy makers and authorities. Regarding WP4 on designing tools and technologies I only receive impressions during the General Assembly and Steering Board meetings, but I am sure we will receive some very interesting and innovative ideas from this team. From my point of view, they could be also important to “sell” the good old basic principles of food safety in a fresh way.

What is the ambitions of your operation in the field of reducing food borne illnesses?

I am representing the aspect of official food safety control in the project, although we are also very much interested in research activities. Our ambition is to reach a new level in the performance of risk communication. It took decades, while European food safety authorities started to embrace the concept of preventive risk communication, and other decades, while we were able to learn the methodology how to segment the population, how to choose the critical messages, how to deal with press, how to cooperate with companies, how to organize campaigns and how to translate professional information to a generally understandable language. And after all of these lessons were learned, we have experienced the fall of the efficiency of conventional media, so we moved to social media also, which was and still is a very slippery place for official communication. And now, I think, we have arrived to a point where we really need new consumer insights to raise the performance of our activities without spending twice as much for buying media space. I believe that we all could learn a lot from this project.