„Breaking out of the mystery of authority” Interview with dr. Márton Oravecz, president of the National Food Chain Safety Office (NÉBIH)

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Autors: Tamás János Szigeti, Gábor Szunyogh


Partnership with businesses, public authority, closer international and scientific relations, opening to the public, development of a knowledge base, a more coherent and uniform laboratory management system, inspections based on risk assessment – just a few keywords from the interesting topics that were discussed with the president of NÉBIH, one of the organizations supporting our journal, NÉBIH.



What are the most important tasks of NÉBIH at the moment?


NÉBIH operates under the authority of the Ministry of Rural Development. While the ministry is primarily responsible for strategy development and legislation, since its establishment, the task of NÉBIH has been operative execution and professional management of the counties, it functions as an international reference laboratory and performs official analyses in the laboratories. In the Food Chain Safety Strategy adopted last year, main objectives for the next ten years were formulated, so the task of the near future is to achieve them in practice.


We manage multiple organizations, we have laboratories and perform important tasks in many locations, in almost every county of the country. Buildings were transferred to government offices, and laboratories to our center. Thanks to this, the relationship now is much more direct, and management is much easier. A more coherent, uniform system serving and supporting authority work is much needed, since now we received a huge laboratory capacity (with more than forty units), and 70 percent of our close to 1100 colleagues work in laboratories.


What about official powers?


First instance official powers rest with counties and districts, and in case of county matters, appellate authority belongs to us, which can be regarded as some kind of supervisory authority. The Directorate of Priority Affairs plays a key role in the fight against black and gray economies, since another organizational unit is needed that can use different methods (such as raids).


I might add that, since 2012, NÉBIH can act directly as a first instance public authority: it can levy fines directly, take action, or even has the authority to take samples directly. In a few areas it is only NÉBIH who can act as a first instance authority, for example when authorizing and inspecting non-state-operated laboratories.


With respect to food safety, many people are aware of European Union regulations. But what happens to foods coming from third countries?


They arrive mainly at marine ports and do not come directly to us. As for inspection, secondary analysis of foods is the task of the authority. This means that, in accordance with decree 3/2010, the Hungarian distributor has to report the goods, and the authority immediately performs a risk assessment. Foods of animal origin coming from third countries are coordinated directly by the European Union, based on their certificates. Admission of the goods is dependent on compliance with EU regulations.



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