Pastirma is a dry cured meat product which is pasted with cemen. This paste is prepared from ground fenugreek, garlic and red hot pepper (RHPP). In this study, the cemen mix/paste and all its ingredients were tested for their inhibitory effects on Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Yersinia enterocolitica. All samples had a varying inhibitory effect against all the bacteria tested during 4 days of storage. Complete cemen paste showed the strongest inhibitory effect on the three pathogens compared to ingredients alone. Fenugreek and RHPP had a bacteriostatic effect while the cemen paste and garlic had a bactericidal effect. S. aureus was the most sensitive bacterium while Y. enterocolitica was the most resistant. The results of this study confirmed the protective effect of cemen paste and garlic in food preservation especially against E coli, S. aureus and Y. enterocolitica proving safety for public health. Hence it might be concluded that cemen paste is the first hurdle to prevent bacterial contamination, and a low pH (similar to 4.83) value would also add an additional barrier to secure safety of the product. Finally, it can be suggested that similar studies should be conducted on actual meat systems to confirm these findings. (c) 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.