Lactic acid occurs in a broad variety of foods consumed by man since times immemorial. At an appropriate pH it has bactericidal properties while not adversely affecting the sensory attributes of food. The suitability of lactic acid as a surface decontaminant for fresh meats, slaughter byproducts and poultry were studied with special reference to markedly reducing the contamination with enteropathogenic Enterobacteriaceue and Campylobacter spp. and extension of shelf life under refrigeration. Discoloration of meat surfaces does not occur at concentrations of approximately 1% v/v lactic acid, at pH = 2.4. Up to 2% does not cause off-flavours in meat. Such treatments result in a significant reduction of the bacterial flora, not only by means of a pH drop but also by a specific action of the acid in the undissociated form. Undesirable flora shifts favouring pathogenic microorganisms at the cost of microbial antagonists have not been observed. Since there are no indications that lactic acid decontamination of meats could in any sense endanger human health, public health authorities would seem well advised to allow meat processing plants to use lactic acid as a decontaminating agent, provided they adhere to the strict conditions of Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP).