The growth and death or survival of Bacillus cereus in sterile skimmed milk fermented with 18 different lactic acid bacteria (LAB) were investigated. B. cereus alone in milk reached about 10(7)-10(8) colony-forming units (cfu)/ml. When B. cereus was cultivated together with different Lactobacillus or Lactococcus cultures at 30 or 37 degrees C, the B. cereus counts after 72 h of fermentation ranged between < 10 cfu/ml and about 10(6) cfu/ml. The inhibition patterns for the different Lactobacillus and Lactococcus cultures varied. All the Lactococcus cultures (with one exception) reduced pH to 5.3 or lower in 7 h. After 24 h, B. cereus was not detected in any of the fast Lactococcus-fermented milk samples. After 48 h, B. cereus was not detected for 4 of the 12 Lactobacillus cultures. These cultures reduced pH to below 5.0 in 24 h. The other Lactobacillus cultures also inhibited B. cereus, but the counts of B. cereus were still 10(4)-10(6) cfu/ml after 72 h. They also reduced pH at a slower rate. Survival of B. cereus was to a variable extent linked with formation of endospores. Proteinase K did not affect the antimicrobial activity observed. Acid production with decreasing pH, particularly the initial rate of pH decrease, appears to be most important for control of B. cereus with LAB.