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Biocop Consumer Workshop 2006
Details of the first BioCop consumer workshop held in Budapest on the 12th May 2006.
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Biocop Consumer Workshop 2006

12th May 2006
Location: Hotel Taverna Conference Centre, Vaci u, 20, Budapest
Local Host: Prof. Chris Elliott and Mrs Diane McCrea
Email: [email protected]     Website: www.biocop.org

BioCop Consumer Workshop Report

The first BioCop consumer workshop was held in Budapest on the 12th May 2006. An audience of around 40 people, from eight European states, attended the event. These attendees came mainly from consumer organisations.

The major aims of the workshop were:
  • To provide a forum for extended discussion of food safety and contaminants within the EU, its Enforcement and especially new technologies to deliver better enforcement and consumer protection.
  • To learn directly from consumer representatives about their particular perspectives and experiences of food contamination issues.
  • To share knowledge and expertise about BioCop, from the project team
  • To establish a dialogue with consumer representatives about BioCop - progress to date and expected deliverables.
The first plenary session was opened by Mr István Garai, the Director of the National Association for Consumer Protection in Hungary (NACPH). His excellent introduction to the topic of chemical contamination of food was followed by a presentation from Mrs Marjana Peterman, from the Slovenian Consumers Association.

Mrs Peterman represented BEUC - The European Consumers' organisation, and presented the important perspective of European consumers with regards their thoughts and fears concerning chemicals in foods. The final presentation of this session was by Mrs Livia Dömölki, a Food Officer from the NSACPH. She gave an excellent overview of the thoughts of consumers from a new EU member state.

Then came the turn of the scientists! Professor Chris Elliott, co-ordinator of BioCop gave a lecture on the types of chemical dangers than can occur in foods. This was followed by Mrs Sara Stead, one of BioCop's leading scientists who gave the audience an insight into how the project aimed at developing new technologies which would help identify problems in food production relating to unwanted chemicals.

The Regulatory Perspective

The workshop audience were then informed about the setting and enforcement of effective health protection for consumers by Dr Christoph Van Holst representing the EC's Joint Research centre and by Dr Peter Biacs representing Codex. Both speakers gave the attendees comprehensive details of how the Commission and Codex strive to ensure that regulations of chemical food safety are enforced.

Audience Participation

It was extremely important for the BioCop project to get a thorough understanding of the thoughts of the knowledgeable workshop participants. Their collective expertise in the area of Consumer Science was extensive.

Mrs Diane McCrea, a member of the BioCop project and leading figure in the world of consumer affairs organised a number of breakout sessions. The topics for discussion were as follows:
  • Can consumers be assured of safe food?
  • Are regulations and enforcement adequate?
  • What are the needs of future research?
What followed can only be described as a series of very lively debates! The experiences of many of the participants was that the level of trust in the production of safe food was less now than ever before. The feeling that profit was the major driving force in food production, especially by the large food companies and multiple retailers. This view was balanced by some opinions that consumers wanted food sold differently now than in the past. The desire for ready cooked, low cost products were felt to be major contributory factors for the presence of unwanted chemical contaminants in many types of food commodities. The consensus was that the cause of chemical contamination of foods is a complex problem and no simple solutions were available. It was however believed that the work of BioCop will have very important outcomes which will ultimately lead to safer food being served to the European consumer.

The Future Plans for BioCop

The view from the project co-ordinator, Professor Elliott was very telling. He stated 'while scientists can strive to develop new technologies to better detect contaminants in foods it is very clear that consumers, though their organisations, must have a say in how such technologies can best be used to improve the trust European citizens have in the food we eat.' Thus a strong bond between the scientists of BioCop and many consumer organisations was formed.

The work of BioCop was acknowledged as being important to the consumers and the opinion of consumers must help drive the direction BioCop takes. The concluding remarks from the BioCop leader spelt the direction of future: Strong interactions with our consumer organisations will make our project stronger and more likely to succeed.

Associated Downloads


BioCop Consumer Workshop Agenda - May 12th 2006

The European Consumers perspective presented by Mrs Marjana Peterman, Slovenian Consumers Association representing BEUC, The European Consumers organisation.

A perspective from consumers in new EU member states presented by Mrs Livia D´┐Żm´┐Żlki, Food Officer, National Association for Consumer Protection in Hungary.

Food Contaminants - problems detecting multiple Chemical Contaminants in Food presented by Prof. Chris Elliott, BioCop Coordinator, Queens University Belfast.

BioCop the solutions: New approaches for the determination of contaminants in foods presented by Mrs Sara Stead, Senior Analytical Chemist, Central Science Laboratory.



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