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Introduction of the National Food Chain Safety Office (NFCSO)

The establishment of the National Food Chain Safety Office

The CAO and the former Hungarian Food Safety Office were integrated into a new office establishing the National Food Chain Safety Office on 15th March 2012. From then on, the NFCSO operates as a legal successor of the CAO and the HFSO incorporating all aspects of the food chain safety supervision into one single authority.


The history of the agricultural public administration in Hungary

Agriculture as a professional activity dates back to old times, in certain territories to times before the foundation of the Hungarian state. There was a certain regulation in each era and regime in this region to control and help the work of those who lived from agriculture and the usage of the produced crops. Our first kings regulated, among others, the areas of hunting, fishing and water-management. Legal regulation in the European states, including , started at the end of the 19th century. The early statutes in all fields were followed by a rapid development of the branches, paralleled by the establishment of an appropriate institutional system. Initially, the institutions were organized according to the different professions.

Between 1989 and general reform of public administration was started lasting until these days. With the accession to the European Union, the duties of the agricultural management have increased and the regulation system has changed.

Based on the challenges of the common agricultural policy and the demand for a consistent management of professional policy, the Agricultural Management has been rearranged. Another goal of the reform has been to provide an access to the necessary information for the farmers faster than before, and to make administration more efficient. Accordingly, all the agricultural administrative departments, which had been independent before, were integrated on 1 January 2007. From that time on, the Central Agricultural Office (CAO) dealt with the questions related to agricultural managerial activities.

The CAO was the general legal successor of the Plant and Soil Protection Services of Budapest and the counties, the Central Service of Plant and Soil Protection, the County Agricultural Offices, the Animal Health and Food Control Stations in Budapest and in the counties, the National Institute for Agricultural Quality Control, the National Forestry Service, the Agricultural Budget Office, the National Wine Qualification Institute, the Institute of Veterinary Vaccine-, Medicine- and Feed Control, the National Animal Health Institute and the National Food Control Institute.

The CAO operated as a plant production authority, soil protection authority, food-chain inspectorate, breeding authority, forestry authority, hunting authority, fishing authority, wine-growing authority, agricultural managerial authority, pálinka (brandy) controlling authority and an agricultural damage assessment organization.


The organization and procedure of the Office

The CAO was a central office directed by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development. The Office is directed by the President, the work of whom was assisted by four Vice Presidents responsible for the following fields:  Institution Management, Food-Chain Safety, Natural and Genetic Resources, and Economy.

The Office holds a centre and 19 regional organizations, including 144 district centres. The heads of the regional organizations (county agricultural administrative offices) were Chief Officers.

The CAO centre had a scope of authority over all the country. In a public administrative authority issue falling under the scope of the CAO, the district office proceeded in the first instance, unless stipulated otherwise. In case of a verdict made by the district office in the first instance, the regional organizations proceeded in the second instance. In case of a verdict made by the regional organizations in the first instance, the Central Office proceeded in the second instance.

In order to fulfil the duties of the central offices operating customer service in the framework of the regional organizations and certain duties of food-chain inspectorate, there are district animal health and food control offices (district offices). The laboratory network operated by the Office implements all the examinations with relevance to agriculture.


Complex Preventive Inspectorate of Food-Chain

As the second step of the consistent agricultural administration, from 1 October 2007 the food-control authorities consistently fell under the control of the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, based on a Government decree on the establishment of a consistent food-safety organization.

Thus, the application of an integrated “from the soil to the table” approach and view was implemented, covering each element of the food chain, including feed production and marketing, the primary production, processing, storing, transporting and marketing of food. With the consistent and complete surveillance of the whole chain kept in one hand, the highest level of food safety could be implemented.

Moreover, the consistent food chain surveillance suited an even wider managerial system, with respect to the fact that the Office provided the surveillance of plant production, animal breeding, as well as it fulfils the task of genetic value maintenance. Thus, we should speak about the validity of the “from the genetic resources to the table” view, instead of the “from the soil to the table” one.


Direct Contact with the Producers

There were approximately 4900 civil servants working for the Office. A significant part of the professionals in agricultural management work in the country, while less than 25% of them were employed in the centre, in Budapest.

The Office provided direct contact with the regional producers in the fields of plant- and animal health, forestry and agricultural management. Certain subsidisation and other issues were also handled locally. In the rural organizations there were Agricultural Extension Agent networks operating (650 members), where our colleagues provided professional consultation, and inform the farmers about the conditions of current aid opportunities, as well as help filling in the application forms necessary for subsidisation. The Agricultural Extension Agents perform the justification, the setting and the control of certain agricultural aids.


Wide scope of authority

Regarding the fact that the organization is responsible for the extensive authority activities of the whole agriculture and food industry, hereby, its activities can only be roughly outlined.

In the frames of its basic agricultural managerial duties regulated by a dedicated statute, the CAO’s responsibilities were as follows:

  • Plant production, animal breeding and conservation of genetic resources;

  • The national approval of plant varieties, and qualification of plant reproductive material;

  • Plant health control of vegetative reproductive material and seeds;

  • Wine management, wine control and wine qualification;

  • Wild game management and fishing;

  • Management, forest asset protection, timber production and related services;

  • Agricultural product marketing;

  • Agricultural environmental protection, plant protection, soil protection;

  • Quality control of fruit and vegetables and approval of  pesticides and regulators;

  • Animal health, animal welfare;

  • Feed safety, feed hygiene and feed quality;

  • Food hygiene, food safety and food quality;

  • Veterinary medicinal products;

  • Post-slaughter qualification of slaughter animals;

  • Water management for agriculture;

  • The operational organization and control of the agricultural market rules and regulations.

  • Land administration and authority affairs are also carried out, regulated by a dedicated statute.


International Relations

The international relations of the Office are varied; besides the fact that it fulfils its task as a national authority, its activities extend to the duties in international organizations as a member country. It has bilateral agreements with the assigned partner authorities as well as it participates in international comparative trials and tests and professional information and experience gathering or in education and organization of education.

The employees of the Office personally participate in the managerial boards, secretariats and working groups of international organizations. We carry out mutual examinations with more countries, in the frames of cooperation contracts. We also have agreed upon the mutual exchange of results, the improvement of experimental methods and the initiation of new examination technologies.

As an example, we can mention the professional management of the internationally recognised, premium quality Hungarian seed production, and that Hungary has played an important role in the formation of the European and the international legislative environment since 1923: it is the founding member of the European Seed Association (1923), the International Seed Testing Association (1924), member of the OECD Seed Schemes (1968), UPOV and CPVO.


The establishment of the National Food Chain Safety Office

The CAO and the former Hungarian Food Safety Office were integrated into a new office establishing the National Food Chain Safety Office on 15th March 2012. From then on, the NFCSO operates as a legal successor of the CAO and the HFSO incorporating all aspects of the food chain safety supervision into one single authority.