Bacteriocins are amphiphilic peptides susceptible to adsorption to food macromolecules and proteolytic degradation. These properties may limit their use as preservation agents. The aim of the present work has been to elucidate the fate of the bacteriocin sakacin P in food. Nisin was used in a few experiments for comparison. Recovery of bacteriocins was studied ill homogenates of cold-smoked salmon, chicken cold cuts and raw chicken, with verification of the results in the corresponding food products. More than 80% of the added sakacin P and nisin were quickly adsorbed to proteins in the food matrix. In foods that had not been heat-treated, proteolytic activity caused a rapid degradation of the bacteriocins, with less than 1% of the total activity left after 1 week in cold-smoked salmon, and even less in raw chicken. In heat-treated foods, the bacteriocin activity was stable for more than 4 weeks. The high fat content in salmon compared to chicken had no adverse effect oil bacteriocin recovery or activity. However, mixing of triglyceride oils and bacteriocin solutions caused a considerable loss of activity. No principal differences were observed between sakacin P and nisin, but less nisin was adsorbed to muscle proteins at low pH, and the negative effect of oils was less pronounced for nisin. Growth of Listeria monocytogenes was completely inhibited for at least 3 weeks in both chicken cold cuts and cold-smoked salmon by addition of sakacin P (3.5 mug/g), despite the proteolytic degradation in the salmon. (C) 2003 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.