A total of 663,533 colonies from 72 dairy and meat sources showed a detection rate of 0.2% for bacteriocin producers using direct plating techniques. A further 83,000 colonies from 40 fish and vegetable sources showed a detection rate of 3.4% for bacteriocin producers using selective enrichment procedures. A collection of seven purified isolates showing a different host spectrum of bacteriocin activity and with the ability to produce bacteriocins in broth culture were compared with nisin and pediocin (with respect to their inhibitory activity, determined by the critical dilution method), against various indicator bacteria in agar and broth. The sensitivity of Listeria species to various bacteriocins was influenced by the agar and broth test systems used. A Lactobacillus curvatus strain was found to be the most suitable indicator for quantitating antimicrobial effects of all the bacteriocins investigated in both agar and broth test systems. The bacteriocin-producing isolates were characterized by biochemical reactions and DNA restriction enzyme profiles and taxonomic identification revealed species of Lactobacillus, Carnobacterium and Lactococcus assigned on the basis of 16S rDNA sequences.