Public health risks of the Bacillus cereus group

EFSA experts have updated a 2005 scientific opinion on the risks to public health related to Bacillus cereus and other Bacillus species in food.

The Bacillus cereus group comprises eight species. One of these, Bacillus thuringiensis, is used as a biopesticide for insect control.

These naturally occurring, soil-borne bacteria can cause food-borne illnesses which usually result in vomiting and diarrhoea. 

EFSA experts say that the only way to identify strains of Bacillus cereus group unambiguously is to determine their complete genome sequence. They recommend the use of whole genome sequencing techniques to collect relevant information as a pre-requisite for further risk assessment.

The experts also recommend control options to manage risks caused by these bacteria. One of the most important options is to keep food refrigerated at a maximum temperature of 7C.

From 2007 to 2014, Member States reported 413 strong-evidence foodborne outbreaks associated with Bacillus cereus, which affected 6,657 people and caused 352 hospitalisations.

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