A farewell to academician József Farkas

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

We are staggered and sad to bid farewell to Professor József Farkas who, in addition to his numerous scientific pursuits, was the president of the editorial board of the Journal of Food Investigations and, as before, had been actively involved in shaping the magazine since its renewal with his wise advice, experience and excelllent scientific papers.


We think it proper to present briefly the life of the most influential personality of Hungarian food science and microbiology below.


His career


He earned his diploma in chemical engineering in 1956, started to work as a practicing engineer at the 9th district Bakery Company in May of that year, and then was offered a job as a junior scientific associate at the Canned, Meat and Refrigeration Industrial Research Institute. Two years later he became a scientific associate of the Central Food Research Institue (KÉKI/CFRI). In 1967 he was promoted to senior scientific associate, and a year later he was appointed head of the food microbiology department. He led the department until 1974, and in the meantime he became deputy scientific director of the research institute in 1972. He held this position for fourteen years.


In 1968 he defended his Ph.D. in chemistry, and in 1978 his academic doctoral thesis. He became member of the Committee of General Microbiology of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA) and the Complex Committee of Food Science, was president of the latter from 2004 until 2009, was elected corresponding member of the MTA in 1990, and full member in 2001.


Meanwhile, he was also included in the Committees of Scientific Ethics and Radiochemistry. In addition to his academic posts, he was chairman of the Hungarian Food Codex Committee from 1992 until 2009, vice president of the Hungarian Society for Microbiology from 2004 until 2008, and chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Hungarian Food Safety Office from 2005.


Between 1976 and 1978 he was coordinating editor of the scientific journal Acta Alimentaria, became editor-in-chief in 2005, and also worked on the editorial board. He was a section editor of Radiation Physics and Chemistry from 1995 until 2006. He joined the editorial board of the Journal of Food Investigations in 1994. From 2006 he became president of the editorial board.


In 1985 he joined the Department of Livestocks’ Products Technology of the University of Horticulture and Food Industry (today: Department of Refrigeration and Livestocks’ Products Technology) as a college professor, and was also appointed head of the department. He retired from this position after 20 years of teaching.

Since 2003, he has been professor emeritus at the university and a research professor at CRFI (KÉKI).




His work abroad:


Between 1980 and 1985 he was director of the International Facility for Food Irradiation Technology in the Netherlands, a research and training center sponsored by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).



Using state-of-the-art technologies, he performed research on the radiation resistance of spoilage microflora, related to food irradiation. He spent almost five decades on the topic of food preservation using irradiation. The subject of his research in England, at the Langford Meat Research Institute was also related to food irradiation, and he investigated the resistance to radiation of bacterial spores, the so-called reparation of the critical, most resistant pathogens following radiation treatment at the Illinois Institute of Technology in the US in 1973.


A life in numbers:

Research professor József Farkas, the domestic pioneer of research on food science and technology, had students from more than 50 countries, participated in the work of 20 international expert committees, visited 45 countries where he presented lectures at conferences and expert committee meetings. He is the author or co-author of more than 200 scientific pubilcations, which includes being the co-author or editor of nine books. Hiw works were published in Hungarian and English. He was married for 52 years, leaving behind three children and seven grandchildren.


His views:

„This field requires a kind of vow of poverty, because Nobel Prizes are not awarded to food researchers” – said in a recent interview, adding that the agriculture and food industry of Hungary requires well-trained chemical engineeres.


Several times, even on the pages of this magazine, he argued that intelligent efforts would be needed against microbiological hazards. In his lectures he often pointed out the effects of climate change on microbiological food safety. He thought that, within Europe, warming would be larger than average in Hungary, and as a result of the stress caused by this, cultivated crops would become more sensitive to pathogens causing plant diseases on the one hand, and food safety problems transmitted with raw materials of plant origin on the other hand. One such problem is the more pronounced spreading of mycotoxin producing molds.


It is no coincidence then that his main area of research was food safety, the microbiology, chemistry and technology of food preservation. His results were significant in the quantification of the combined effect of antimicrobial stress factors, in the inhibition of lipid oxidation processes (i.e. oxidation of a certain type of fat) of foods of animal origin (meat, milk, cheese etc.), and in the foundation of food technologies against food-borne pathogenic bacteria. In the 2000s, he addressed food technology questions related to spices and fruits, and also issues of non-thermal preservation methods and the microbiological safety of foods.




Awards, recognitions


                Elek Sigmond Memorial Medal (1974)

                Tamás Kosutány Memorial Medal (1992)

                Eijkman Medal (1992, University of Utrecht)

                Ferenc Lőrincz Memorial Medal (1997)

                Széchenyi Prize (1999)

                Arnold Ipolyi Award for the development of science (2000, OTKA)

                MTESZ Award (2005)


An outstanding figure of domestic food science was lost in the person of academician Dr. József Farkas. His priceless scientific results will live on. The always humble and kind scientist will be remembered with reverence. May God give him a peaceful rest!


Source based on: „Interview with József Farkas emeritus professor” riport by Júlia Cseh (NÉBIH újság/NÉBIH journal)