The Bacillus cereus group encompasses important foodborne pathogens and spoilage species. They can all form endospores which frequently survive industrial conditions of heating, desinfection and radiation. These sublethal conditions are an important selective pressure which acccording to observations can lead to selection of spores with a higher resistance. However, it is still unclear (1) how fast and to what extent this resistance is build up against a particular stress, (2) to what extent cross resistance occurs against other forms of stress, and (3) whether the behavior of the resulting vegetative cells is changed with respect to spoilage and toxigenic properties. This project combines the expertise of three research groups to investigate the potential impact of B. cereus endospore evolution in the food production chain on the molecular, population and industrial levels.
We investigate whether and how the current conservation and disinfection practices in food production affect the evolution and characteristics of endospores. We also measure the consequences for the behavior of the resulting vegetative cells. We focus on (1) Bacillus cereus sensu lato as model organism of a Gram positive endospore former with high relevance for food safety, (2) thermal, peroxide and radiation based stress conditions which occur frequently in food industry, and (3) the potential implications of this selective pressure and the resulting adaptations on the survival, germination, growth, spoilage and toxin production of the endospores and their corresponding vegetative cells in food.
The three research teams (KU Leuven, Ghent University and ILVO) have plans for extensive communication of the the results, because of their relevance for the food industry and the consumer. The audience will be reached via peer reviewed (and preferentially open access) publications, lectures and poster presentations at specialized and general conferences. Two workshops are programmed with stakeholders, as well as publications in trade journals (e.g. New Food, LMT, VMT Food, etc.) and online presentationis for a wider audience in a viewer friendly format. The promotors are co-organizers of the yearly Conference on Food Microbiology which offers a forum on food spoilage and safety for academics, regulatory agencies and industry. At the end of the project, a special session on this conference will be organized in order to present the results, as well as a networking event at the Food Pilot of ILVO.