The effect of calcium and sodium lactates on growth from spores of Bacillus cereus and Clostridium perfringens at three different concentrations (0, 1.5 and 3% w/w) and at different temperatures (10, 15 and 20 degreesC for B. cereus and 15, 20 and 25 degreesC for C. perfringens) was investigated, using beef goulash as a model system for pasteurised vacuum-packaged convenience foods. Calcium lactate at a level of 3% reduced the pH values of the samples from 6.0 to 5.5. No B. cereus growth was observed at 10 degreesC, but after 7 days at an incubation temperature of 15 degreesC, cell number increased by 1 log cfu/g in the control samples. At this temperature, lactates were seen to be effective at inhibiting growth. Calcium lactate was more inhibitory than sodium lactate as the growth of B. cereus was inhibited at 1.5 and 3% concentrations at 20 degreesC, respectively. Growth of C. perfringens was arrested in the presence of 1.5% calcium lactate at all storage temperatures, whereas growth was inhibited by 3% sodium lactate only at 15 degreesC. (C) 2001 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.