The effects of mild conventional food-processing conditions on Listeria monocytogenes survival to pulsed UV (PUV) irradiation and virulence-associated characteristics were investigated. Specifically, this study describes the inability of 10 strains representative of 3 different culture forms or morphotypes of L monocytogenes to adapt to normally lethal levels of PUV-irradiation after exposure to sub-lethal concentrations of salt (7.5% (w/v) NaCl for 1 h), acid (pH 5.5 for 1 h), heating (48 degrees C for 1 h) or PUV (UV dose 0.08 mu J/cm(2)). Findings showed that the order of increasing sensitivity of L monocytogenes of non-adapted and stressed morphotypes to low pH (pH 3.5 for 5 h, adjusted with lactic), high salt (17.5% w/v NaCl for 5 h), heating (60 degrees C for 1 h) and PUV-irradiation (100 pulses at 7.2 J and 12.8 J, equivalent to UV doses of 2.7 and 8.4 mu J/cm(2) respectively) was typical wild-type smooth (S/WT), atypical filamentous rough (FR) and atypical multiple-cell-chain (MCR) variants. Exposure of L monocytogenes cells to sublethal acid, salt or heating conditions resulted in similar or increased susceptibility to PUV treatments. Only prior exposure to mild heat stressing significantly enhanced invasion of Caco-2 cells, whereas subjection of L monocytogenes cells to combined sub-lethal salt, acid and heating conditions produced the greatest reduction in invasiveness. Implications of these findings are discussed. This constitutes the first study to show that pre-exposure to mild conventional food-processing stresses enhances sensitivity of different culture morphotypes of L monocytogenes to PUV, which is growing in popularity as an alternative or complementary approach for decontamination in the food environment. (C) 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.