In 1875 the Hungarian grape varieties were attacked by a new disease phyloxera, causing immense damage. To this end the National Phyloxera Research Station was established in 1880, then in 1881 the Wine Inspection Station on Herman Ottó street in Budapest. The minister of agriculture brought about the Hungarian Royal Agricultural, Botanical and Viticultural Institute by a decree in 1917. During the 1944-45 winter siege of Budapest, the buildings of the Herman Ottó street campus were burnt down and laid in ruins, the equipments were destroyed. After the II World War, life has restarted. In 1949 the predecessor of our institute, the Canning Meat and Refrigeration Research Institute (KOHIKI), was established on this campus, whose departments became independent branch research institutes with new sites. At the same time, with the development of the remaining departments on Herman Ottó street, our Institute was established under the name of Central Food Research Institute (acronyms: KÉKI in hungarian and CFRI in english).
The director of KOHIKI, Dr. Gábor Török became the first leader of KÉKI, who directed the Institute until his death in 1966. His work has greatly contributed to the development of the Hungarian canning industry and had a significant, pioneering effect in introducing fast freezing of foods in Hungary. He had taken the initiative of the starting research early on preservation by ionization in Hungary. He created a scientific school, which lives on due to his erstwhile colleagues, from whom at least a dozen have since become leaders of research institutes or university professors.
Academician, Dr. Károly Vas, directed the institute from 1967 to his death in 1981. He has unforgettable merits for laying down the foundations of science-based food preservation, in exploring the method of effect of physical and chemical antimicrobial factors, in food analysis, in production and food industrial application of microbial enzyme preparations, as well as in development of certain food microbiological methods. He has undying merits in further developing KÉKI, strengthening its relationships, in attempting to have food scientific activities recognized, and organizing a nationwide coordinated research program. With his lead, the still active Complex Committee on Food Science of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA) was brought to life, and he was also the founding chief editor of the international journal Acta Alimentaria edited Hungary.
At the beginning of the 1990-ies, the research financing has been upset in the course of privatizing food industry. A considerable part of the branch research institutes found themselves in critical situation, many of them disappeared and their research staff was melted away. From the beginning of the mid 1990-ies, several EU programs (e.g. EUREKA, COST, EU 5 Framework Program) were opened for associate member states. The director of the Institute was Dr. Péter Biacs until 1999.
The Hungarian name of the institute was changed in 2001 to emphasize the increasing role of food science. The profile of the Institute significantly bradened in 2011, and reflecting the „from field to table” concept of the European Union, research on food science expanded to cover environmental safety aspects as well. This expansion is manifested in the establishment of the new Division of Agro-Environmental Safety, covering environmental analysis, ecotoxicology and microbiology. In 2012, by the new Foundation Document of the institute, indicating the novel research fields, the name of the institute was changed to Central Environmental and Food Science Research Institute.
The reformed KÉKI in its research priorities and structure conducts basic and applied research in the field of food science and technology to detect risk factors of food safety and technology, and to develop new methods for their monitoring and reduction; to explore risk factors of novel foods and yet uncontrolled technological processes; to develop environmentally friendly methods and products serving food safety and healthy diet. In addition, it takes an active role in the scientific public life, education and in helping the ministry by doing different supportive tasks. The institute significantly contributes to formulating a national food safety strategy and program, and to representing Hungary in the European scientific life. Its integration into the European blood stream is hallmarked by the large number of EU projects.