Breeding Crops for Enhanced Food Safety
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.3389/fpls.2020.00428
An increasing global population demands a continuous supply of nutritious and safe food. Edible products can be contaminated with biological (e.g., bacteria, virus, protozoa), chemical (e.g., heavy metals, mycotoxins), and physical hazards during production, storage, transport, processing, and/or meal preparation. The substantial impact of foodborne disease outbreaks on public health and the economy has led to multidisciplinary research aimed to understand the biology underlying the different contamination processes and how to mitigate food hazards. Here we review the knowledge, opportunities, and challenges of plant breeding as a tool to enhance the food safety of plant-based food products. First, we discuss the significant effect of plant genotypic and phenotypic variation in the contamination of plants by heavy metals, mycotoxin-producing fungi, and human pathogenic bacteria. In addition, we discuss the various factors (i.e., temperature, relative humidity, soil, microbiota, cultural practices, and plant developmental stage) that can influence the interaction between plant genetic diversity and contaminant. This exposes the necessity of a multidisciplinary approach to understand plant genotype × environment × microbe × management interactions. Moreover, we show that the numerous possibilities of crop/hazard combinations make the definition and identification of high-risk pairs, such as Salmonella-tomato and Escherichia coli-lettuce, imperative for breeding programs geared toward improving microbial safety of produce. Finally, we discuss research on developing effective assays and approaches for selecting desirable breeding germplasm. Overall, it is recognized that although breeding programs for some human pathogen/toxin systems are ongoing (e.g., Fusarium in wheat), it would be premature to start breeding when targets and testing systems are not well defined. Nevertheless, current research is paving the way toward this goal and this review highlights advances in the field and critical points for the success of this initiative that were discussed during the Breeding Crops for Enhanced Food Safety workshop held 5-6 June 2019 at University of California, Davis.