Recent paradigm shifts in the perception of the role of Bacillus thuringiensis in foodborne disease
Plant protection products based on Bacillus thuringiensis have been used to fight agricultural pests for decades and are the world's most frequently applied biopesticide. However, there is growing concern that B. thuringiensis residues in food may occasionally cause diarrheal illness in humans. This has recently sparked a plethora of research activities and vivid discussions across the scientific community, competent authorities, and the public. To support this discussion, we provide a structured overview of the current knowledge on the role of B. thuringiensis as a causative agent of foodborne infections in humans and pinpoint research gaps that need to be addressed for improved risk assessment. We review (i) recent taxonomic changes in the B. cereus group; (ii) the role of B. thuringiensis in transforming agrosystems; and (iii) key considerations for assessing the hazard potential of B. thuringiensis strains detected in foods. We conclude that (i) the taxonomy of the B. cereus group is collapsing, (ii) B. thuringiensis based biopesticides play a key role in realizing the UN's sustainable development goals, and (iii) risk assessment needs to move from taxonomy-driven considerations to strain-specific identification of virulence and pathogenicity traits We also provide an overview of relevant risk-related data for commonly used biopesticide strains.