In a development that would be really funny if it weren’t also really, really scary, business daily Napi.hu reports that Hungary’s State Public Health and Medical Officer Service (ÁNTSZ) has just published a report on food safety at the country’s restaurants and catering establishments, following a recent round of inspections. The good news is that the report includes the names of businesses that passed ÁNTSZ’s inspections with flying colors. The bad news is that ÁNTSZ has said they will stop publishing lists of places that fail their health and safety inspections, even though it has recorded a significant jump in the number of food poisoning cases reported around the country.
ÁNTSZ’s rationale for scrapping their earlier, half-hearted attempt to blacklist unhygienic restaurants is that they want to guide guests to “safe places” instead of trying to keep them away from those where problems may have only occurred once. Which might make sense, if their list of “safe places” offered more than nine options, including a pastry shop in Tápiógyörgye and a gas station buffet in Zalaegerszeg.
The report suggests that Central Hungary is the epicenter of the current epidemic of food poisonings, with a total of 194 people falling ill in four separate cases, 50 of whom needed to be hospitalized.
As for why there might be an increase in such cases, the ÁNTSZ thinks the reason is that food safety “does not have an owner.” Until now, three different bodies – ÁNTSZ, the consumer protection authority and the animal health authority – have been responsible for food safety issues. But this task is going to be overseen by the Central Agricultural Office (Mezőgazdasági Szakigazgatási Hivatal) alone from September 1, and the transitional period apparently has led to some laxness. Meanwhile, Lajos Ócsai, the head of the public health department, said another reason for the current plague of poisonings is that new regulations do not require kitchen workers to undergo training about the dangers of the Calici virus. Which together does sound like a recipe for disaster, especially if no official body dares to aggressively spread the word of who is spreading the resulting diseases.