Occurrence of Natural Bacillus thuringiensis Contaminants and Residues of Bacillus thuringiensis-Based Insecticides on Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
A total of 128 Bacillus cereus-like strains isolated from fresh fruits and vegetables for sale in retail shops in Denmark were characterized. Of these strains, 39% (50/128) were classified as Bacillus thuringiensis on the basis of their content of cry genes determined by PCR or crystal proteins visualized by microscopy. Random amplified polymorphic DNA analysis and plasmid profiling indicated that 23 of the 50 B. thuringiensis strains were of the same subtype as B. thuringiensis strains used as commercial bioinsecticides. Fourteen isolates were indistinguishable from B. thuringiensis subsp. kurstaki HD1 present in the products Dipel, Biobit, and Foray, and nine isolates grouped with B. thuringiensis subsp. aizawai present in Turex. The commercial strains were primarily isolated from samples of tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers. A multiplex PCR method was developed to simultaneously detect all three genes in the enterotoxin hemolysin BL (HBL) and the nonhemolytic enterotoxin (NHE), respectively. This revealed that the frequency of these enterotoxin genes was higher among the strains indistinguishable from the commercial strains than among the other B. thuringiensis and B. cereus-like strains isolated from fruits and vegetables. The same was seen for a third enterotoxin, CytK. In conclusion, the present study strongly indicates that residues of B. thuringiensis-based insecticides can be found on fresh fruits and vegetables and that these are potentially enterotoxigenic.