Recent investigations have shown that members of the Bacillus cereus group carry genes which have the potential to cause gastrointestinal and somatic diseases. Although most cases of diseases caused by the B. cereus group bacteria are relatively mild, it is desirable to be able to detect members of the B. cereus group in food and in the environment. Using 16S rDNA as target, a PCR assay for the detection of B. cereus group cells has been developed. Primers specific for the 16S rDNA of the B. cereus group bacteria were selected and used in combination with consensus primers for 16S rDNA as internal PCR procedure control. The PCR procedure was optimized with respect to annealing temperature. When DNA from the B. cereus group bacteria was present, the PCR assay yielded a B. cereus specific fragment, while when non-B. cereus prokaryotic DNA was present, the consensus 16S rDNA primers directed synthesis of the PCR products. The PCR analyses with DNA from a number of non-B. cereus confirmed the specificity of the PCR assay.