Common food preservatives impose distinct selective pressures on Salmonella Typhimurium planktonic and biofilm populations

Justin Abi Assaf, Emma Holden, Eleftheria Trampari, Mark Webber

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Food preservatives are crucial in controlling microbial growth in processed foods to maintain food safety. Bacterial biofilms pose a threat in the food chain by facilitating persistence on a range of surfaces and food products. Cells in a biofilm are often highly tolerant of antimicrobials and can evolve in response to antimicrobial exposure. Little is known about the efficacy of preservatives against biofilms and their potential impact on the evolution of antimicrobial resistance. In this study we investigated how Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium responded to subinhibitory concentrations of four food preservatives (sodium chloride, potassium chloride, sodium nitrite or sodium lactate) when grown planktonically and in biofilms. We found that each preservative exerted a unique selective pressure on S. Typhimurium populations. There was a trade-off between biofilm formation and growth in the presence of three of the four preservatives, where prolonged preservative exposure resulted in reduced biofilm biomass and matrix production over time. All three preservatives selected for mutations in global stress response regulators rpoS and crp. There was no evidence for any selection of cross-resistance to antibiotics after preservative exposure. In conclusion, we showed that preservatives affect biofilm formation and bacterial growth in a compound specific manner. We showed trade-offs between biofilm formation and preservative tolerance, but no antibiotic cross-tolerance. This indicates that bacterial adaptation to continuous preservative exposure, is unlikely to affect food safety or contribute to antibiotic resistance.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104517
JournalFood Microbiology
Early online date26 Mar 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 26 Mar 2024

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