Biofilm dispersal induced by mechanical cutting leads to heightened foodborne pathogen dissemination

Tsz yiu Kwok, Yeping Ma, Song Lin Chua (Corresponding Author)

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


The biofilm life cycle where bacteria alternate between biofilm and planktonic lifestyles poses major implications in food spoilage and gastrointestinal infections. Recent studies had shown that freshly biofilm-dispersed cells have a unique physiology from planktonic cells, raising the fundamental question if biofilm-dispersed cells and planktonic cells disseminate differently across food surfaces. Mechanical dislodging via cutting can cause biofilm dispersal and eventual food cross-contamination. Here, we showed that biofilm-dispersed bacteria from various foodborne pathogens were transferred from freshly cut surface at a higher rate to the cutting material than that of planktonic bacteria. When the cutting tool was used to cut a fresh surface, more biofilm-dispersed bacteria were disseminated from the cutting tool to the newly cut surface than planktonic bacteria. Our observations were applicable to cutting tools of various materials and cut surfaces, where polystyrene and surfaces with high water content were most susceptible to biofilm transfer, respectively. Simple washing with detergent and mechanical wiping could aid bacterial removal from cutting tools. Our work revealed that biofilm-dispersed cells were transferred at a higher rate than planktonic cells and cutting tool was an important medium for pathogen cross-contamination, thus providing insights in maintaining their cleanliness in food processing industries.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103914
JournalFood Microbiology
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022


  • Biofilm
  • Dispersed cells
  • Mechanical dislodging
  • Planktonic bacteria

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Microbiology


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