The difference in killing exponential- and stationary-phase cells of Listeria monocytogenes by benzalkonium chloride (BAC) was investigated by plate counting and linked to relevant bioenergetic parameters. At a low concentration of BAC (8 mg liter-1), a similar reduction in viable cell numbers was observed for stationary-phase cells and exponential-phase cells (an approximately 0.22-log unit reduction), although their membrane potential and pH gradient were dissipated. However, at higher concentrations of BAC, exponential-phase cells were more susceptible than stationary-phase cells. At 25 mg liter-1, the difference in survival on plates was more than 3 log units. For both types of cells, killing, i.e., more than 1-log unit reduction in survival on plates, coincided with complete inhibition of acidification and respiration and total depletion of ATP pools. Killing efficiency was not influenced by the presence of glucose, brain heart infusion medium, or oxygen. Our results suggest that growth phase is one of the major factors that determine the susceptibility of L. monocytogenes to BAC.