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Last update: May 2021

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ASIRPA: socio-economic analysis of the diversity of Impacts of Public Research for Agriculture

Preventing poisoning by pathogenic bacteria Bacillus cereus

Photo Inrae, Biofilm de Bacillus Cereus
Bacillus cereus is a bacterium responsible for foodborne illnesses and since 2011 has been the second biggest cause of collective food poisoning outbreaks in France. Yet the public health impact of B. cereus was previously largely underestimated. In addition, because B. cereus is a pathogenic bacterium mainly transmitted by food, it represents an important issue for the agri-food sector.

In the 1990s, several INRAE laboratories focused their research on B. cereus, forming the basis of the eponymous network supported by the Microbiology and the Food Chain department. In order to better answer the questions posed by the bacterium for hygiene, food safety and human health, the network has been extended in France to include researchers from ANSES, Institut Pasteur and European laboratories. Collaborative research projects involving ANSES, manufacturers and technical centres, in addition to training, participation in the development of standards and opinions from health authorities, have made it possible to circulate knowledge between all stakeholders involved in food safety.

In the context of monitoring food safety, the research conducted by INRAE and its partners has had a significant impact on public health policy. This stems from an awareness among actors of the risk represented by B. cereus, against a background of underreporting of the pathogen in the 1990s, the development of methods for characterising the bacteria based on new knowledge and, more recently, standards to apply them. A public health impact has been obtained by improving hygiene in the agri-food industries and reducing food contamination. A new generation of impacts is emerging, through the contribution of INRAE and its partners to an awareness of the underestimated risks that B. cereus poses to public health.