Reporters from SEENPM countries participate in a study tour on food safety coverage in Budapest

March 10, 2008, Budapest. Reporters from Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia examined various aspects of food safety coverage with international and Hungarian experts and fellow journalists during a study tour from 4 to 8 March, 2008 in Hungary. The program was organized by the Center for Independent Journalism, Budapest (CIJ). The study tour was a part of a six-month project on reporting on food safety, a public health issue. The project is supported by the Open Society Institute Network Media Program.

The study tour provided the participants with an opportunity to explore the complexity of food safety issues in relation to public health, basic consumer rights and the right to access public information.  Through presentations and discussions, journalists learnt about various aspects of food safety regulation, monitoring, food science, communication and strategy, consumer consciousness, challenges of globalization, and a number of other important problems. During the field trips to Egerfood Regional Research Center in Eger and later the Univer baby food plant in Kecskemét, the participants were able to learn about new research results of food traceability methods and various aspects of food processing regarding safety and quality standards. (See program of the study tour below)

The participants also delivered presentations identifying the major problems and challenges of covering food safety in their own countries. At the end of the study tour they formulated their conclusions about common or country specific problems of the food safety situation in South East Europe and completed a draft of their recommendations on food safety coverage. Based on the experiences of the study tour and the newly acquired knowledge, they put together a list of potential story ideas on food safety.

In the next phase of the project, journalists will write in-depth articles, produce radio and television programs for their media organizations, and they will further elaborate recommendations of food safety reporting. The Budapest Center for Independent Journalism will publish the results of the project on the CIJ and SEENPM websites.

For more information contact Ilona Moricz, Director of CIJ, Budapest at [email protected]

Reporting on food safety, a public health issue

– study tour for journalists, 4-8 March, 2008 – Hungary

Program schedule

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

9.00 – 9.30 – Welcome and introduction at the Center for Independent Journalism

9.30 – 11.00 – Session 1: Food safety as a public health issue – international aspects

Definitions, food safety vs. food security; international and national regulations; science and risk-based safety standards, major problems and dangers of food safety in 2007 in the world and in South East Europe – presentation to be followed by a discussion

Speaker: Maria Kadlecikova, Regional Representative for Europe and Central Asia, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

11.15-13:00 Session 2: Regulation and monitoring of food safety in Hungary

Monitoring system, food safety authorities, institutions and services in Hungary; national strategy of food safety,challenges of communicating food safety policy – presentations to be followed by a discussion

Speaker: Dr. Miklós Süth, secretary of state, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Hungary

13.00-13.45 – Lunch

14.00 – 15.30 Session 3: Food safety issues in South East Europe I– presentations and discussions based on country briefings

Speakers: participants from 11 countries will deliver country presentations or case studies 5-7 minutes each

Talking points: identification of major food safety problems and challenges of covering food safety

15.30 – 15.45 – Coffee break

15:45 – 17:00 Session 4: Regulation and public information about food safety – presentation to be followed by questions and answers

Talking points: food safety situation in Hungary, management of crisis situations; independent quality and safety controlling mechanisms, responsibility for public data available on food safety (MEBIH website)

Speakers: Dr. Mária Szabó Szeitz, General Manager of the Hungarian Food Safety Office (MEBIH)

17:00 – 18:00 Session 5: Food safety issues in South East Europe II– presentations and discussions based on country briefings

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

8:30 –  16:00 – Field trip to Egerfood Regional Research Center at Eszterházy Károly College

Talking points: scientific research of tracking systems in food processing – coding, biosensors, new methods of analysis, info-communication on food safety issues with the public

Host:    Dr. Attila Kiss, Manager, Egerfood Regional Research Center

Thursday, March 6, 2008

9.30 – 11.00

Session 6: Food safe or food secure? –  A food systems approach to the politics of food

Speaker: Matthew Hayes, Open Garden Foundation

11:00-11:15 – Coffee break

11:15-13:00 Session 7: Conscious and informed consumers – search for credible information – presentations and discussion

Talking points: consumer rights – awareness of the society about the right to safe food and the right to access information; corporate interests of food companies vs. government regulators (new technology, GMO products, licensing, etc.); media and alternative sources of information to educate the public on food safety issues (labeling, hygiene, storing and handling food), self-regulation and mediation as tools for improved consumer protection, useful websites and links

Speakers: Gábor Szép, National Association of Consumer Protection in Hungary; Katalin Újhelyi, Association of Conscious Consumer (NGO); János Pál, Clean Air Working Group (NGO)

13:00 – 14:00 – Lunch

14:00 – 16:30  Session 8: Responsible media and reporting on food safety – roundtable discussion of journalists and media experts


Coverage of the “guar-gum scandal” in Hungary, summer 2007: presentation of the case study by Péter Szirmai S., Figyel?? business weekly

Professional standards of reporting – Anna Benke, Progresszív Magazin
Freedom of information and food safety – Adam Földes, Hungarian Civil Liberties Union

Friday, March 7, 2008

8.00 – 16.00 – Visit at Univer Company’s baby food plant in Kecskemét

Talking points: quality and food safety regulations, application of international safety standards, new and environment-friendly technology

Host: Gabor Palotas, Director, quality management

Saturday, March 8, 2008

10:00 – 12:00 – Elaboration of recommendations, discussion of potential story ideas by individual participants, compilation of useful links, websites and publications

Consultant: Eva Vajda, investigative reporter

12:00 -13:00 – Wrap-up of the study tour, evaluation at the Center for Independent Journalism

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