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Evaluation of B. thuringiensis-based biopesticides in the primary production of fresh produce as a food safety hazard and risk

  • De Bock, Thomas
  • Zhao, Xingchen
  • Jacxsens, Liesbeth
  • Devlieghere, Frank
  • Rajkovic, Andreja
  • Spanoghe, Pieter
  • Höfte, Monica
  • Uyttendaele, Mieke
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2021
DOI: 10.1016/j.foodcont.2021.108390
Ghent University Institutional Archive
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Background: B. thuringiensis is a naturally occurring insect pathogen, genetically closely related to the human pathogen B. cereus. Commercial B. thuringiensis biopesticides have a long track record of safe use. Still, concerns are raised on the potential for enterotoxin production by biopesticide strains, especially since B. thuringiensis found in salad was a hypothesized cause of a foodborne outbreak in the EU. Scope and approach: This review uses the basic steps of a risk assessment to collect available knowledge relevant to B. thuringiensis biopesticides and their impact on food safety of fresh produce. Subsequently, some directions for effective risk management strategies are provided, reflecting on various aspects that might impact decisionmaking on the use of B. thuringiensis as a biopesticide. Key findings and conclusions: Phylogenetic studies show that B. thuringiensis biopesticide strains are part of another clade compared to highly pathogenic B. cereus group strains. Although they contain enterotoxin genes, their ability to produce these toxins in the human gastrointestinal tract may be more limited. Furthermore, surveys show that it is unlikely to find elevated levels of B. thuringiensis on ready-to-eat fresh produce, higher than the established action limit of 105 CFU/g for presumptive B. cereus on foods. Finally, the B. cereus diarrheal syndrome is generally mild and self-limiting. Therefore, the use of B. thuringiensis biopesticides is expected to pose a low food safety risk.

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