About this Research Topic
The demand for nutritious and safe food will likely increase as the human population is expected to reach 9.1 billion by 2050 along with increasing urbanization. Healthy eating of fresh fruits and vegetables is part of an integrated strategy to decrease the risk of serious diseases. Ironically, more than 9 million foodborne illnesses in the United States are estimated to be caused by major pathogens each year and 51% has been attributed to plant commodities. In particular, leafy vegetables are associated with the majority of illnesses (2.2 million; 22%).
Human pathogens can be introduced into the primary food production chain by different sources, such as low-quality irrigation water, use of contaminated organic fertilizers, close proximity to livestock operations, wildlife intrusions, and improper worker hygiene or contaminated equipment. Fresh produce can become contaminated during production at the processing/packing stage, and/or during preparation. Pre-harvest contamination may become a post-harvest disaster resulting in the introduction of pathogens into the processing plant, establishment of biofilms on food-contact surfaces, and subsequent cross-contamination of produce lots to be distributed at national or international scales, leading to multinational outbreaks. Thus, Good Agricultural Practice, Good Handling Practices, Good Manufacturing Practice, and Hazard Analysis of Critical Control Points remain the cornerstone of food safety management along the production chain (from farm to fork) as part of “multiple hurdle” approaches to limit produce contamination. Unlike foods of animal origin, fresh or ready-to-eat (RTE) produce, such as leafy vegetables and fruit, cannot undergo thermal processes to inactivate human pathogens. The lack of an efficient killstep is one of the greatest challenges facing the fresh produce industry. Thus, novel and comprehensive approaches are still needed to ensure the safety and quality of freshly consumed produce.
Scope and Information for Authors
With this article collection, we would like to gather a comprehensive understanding of the issues associated with the safety of fresh produce. We seek to cover themes such as regulatory, industry, and extension perspectives on crop safety; genetic diversity in human pathogen-plant interactions; programs currently breeding for crop safety; and opportunities for breeding strategies for food safety. Submissions of all types are welcomed, including reviews, opinions and original research. Some themes of interest are:
-Plant Microbiology associated with fresh produce safety
-Plant and/or microbial genetic traits associated with human pathogen fitness on plants
-Control measures to enhance produce safety
-Breeding strategies to reduce toxin contamination of foods
Keywords: Crop breeding, food safety, microbial hazard, toxin, human health
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