Maria T. Brandl and
George W. Sundin
First author: Produce Safety and Microbiology Research Unit, United States Department of Agriculture–Agriculture Research Service, Albany, CA; and second author: Department of Plant, Soil, and Microbial Sciences, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI.
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This Focus Issue addresses the topic of food safety and the biology of human pathogens on plants, a relatively new problem with a direct impact on public health. This critical aspect of produce safety is relevant to research in plant microbial ecology and intersects with numerous concepts that are explored in plant pathology. The emergence of outbreaks of human illness linked to the contamination of produce is likely one of the most important problems to face horticultural production at the beginning of this century. Epidemics of foodborne disease are not only a threat to public health but also erode consumer confidence in the causal food product and thus, impact the economic viability of the industry. Although researched extensively for nearly two decades, produce contamination with human pathogens continues to bring many important questions about the behavior of these pathogens on plants and the biotic and abiotic factors that contribute to their persistence in this habitat, thereby causing human illness. This Focus Issue includes articles that address the identification of routes of plant contamination by enteric pathogens, interactions between human pathogens and indigenous plant microbes, identification of genes in Salmonella enterica that participate in its colonization of plants, the ingress of enteric pathogens into plant tissue and possible differences in stomatal immunity to the human pathogens S. enterica and E. coli O157:H7, effects of soil management practices on pathogen internalization events, and virus contamination of produce. We hope that readers will find this collection of articles a valuable source of information and inspiration to formulate new hypotheses in plant microbiology.