Thyme (Thymus vidgaris L), rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis L), black pepper (Piper nigrum L.) and cumin (Cuminum cyminum L) in ground form were packaged in either air or 100% N-2 and gamma-irradiated at 3 different irradiation levels (7 kGy, 12 kGy, 17 kGy). Total viable bacterial count, yeast and mould count, colour, essential oil yield and essential oil composition were determined. Microbial load was not detectable after 12 kGy irradiation of all samples. Irradiation resulted in significant changes in colour values of rosemary and black pepper. The discolouration of the irradiated black pepper was lower in modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) compared to air packaging. Essential oil yield of irradiated black pepper and cumin was lower in air packaging compared to MAP. Gamma-irradiation generally decreased monoterpenes and increased oxygenated compounds, but the effect was lower in MAP. Overall, spices should be irradiated under an O-2-free atmosphere to minimise quality deterioration. (C) 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.