Listeria monocytogenes can enter the food chain at virtually any point. However, food processing environments seem to be of particular importance. From an ecological point of view, food processing facilities are microbial habitats that are constantly disturbed by cleaning and sanitizing procedures. Although L. monocytogenes is considered ubiquitous in nature, it is important to recognize that not all L. monocytogenes strains appear to be equally distributed; the distribution of the organism seems to be related to certain habitats. Currently, no direct evidence exists that L. monocytogenes-associated biofilms have played a role in food contamination or foodborne outbreaks, likely because biofilm isolation and identification are not part of an outbreak investigation, or the definition of biofilm is unclear. Because L. monocytogenes is known to colonize surfaces, we suggest that contamination patterns may be studied in the context of how biofilm formation is influenced by the environment within food processing facilities. In this review, direct and indirect epidemiological and phenotypic evidence of lineage-related biofilm formation capacity to specific ecological niches will be discussed. A critical view on the development of the biofilm concept, focused on the practical implications, strengths, and weaknesses of the current definitions also is discussed. The idea that biofilm formation may be an alternative surrogate for microbial fitness is proposed. Furthermore, current research on the influence of environmental factors on biofilm formation is discussed.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Food Science
- Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering