Effective food plant cleaning procedures remove microbial nutrients from surfaces, which could result in contaminating bacteria being subject to a starvation microenvironment. This research investigated the effect of starvation on the susceptibility of Listeria monocytogenes to benzalkonium chloride (BAC). Cells were starved in phosphate buffer at 21°C for 4 d. Biofilm and planktonic listeriae reacted differently to starvation. When cells were grown in tryptic soy broth (TSB), starvation reduced the susceptibility of planktonic cells to BAC by 2.3- to 4.7-fold but had no effect on the susceptibility of biofilm cells. Planktonic cells grown in diluted TSB were 390 times more resistant than normal TSB-grown cells, but when these cells were starved, they lost their increased resistance. This phenomenon was not observed with biofilm cells. Increased resistance of listeriae grown in diluted TSB was associated with dilution of the salt/buffer components of the medium. Sanitizer-treated cells were enumerated by using tryptic soy agar-yeast extract pour plates and by a direct viable count method. Results indicate that some cells exposed to BAC were not detected by the plate count procedure but were still viable.
1 Food Industry Research and Development Institute, Taiwan, Republic of China.