The antimicrobial effect of water extracts of sumac (Rhus coriaria L.) at concentrations of 0.1%, 0.5%, 1.0%, 2.5% and 5.0% (w/v), non-neutralized and after neutralization to pH 7.2+/-0.1, was studied on the growth of 12 bacterial strains (six Gram positive strains and six Gram negative strains), mostly food borne including pathogens. It was found to be effective against all the test organisms with Gram positive strains being more sensitive than Gram negative strains. Significant differences (P<0.01) were found among the bacteria and between the non-neutralized and neutralized extracts with non-neutralized being more effective against all the bacteria. The minimal inhibitory concentration (MIC) of the extract for each bacterial strain was studied by a gradient plate method. Among the Gram positive organisms, Bacillus species (Bacillus cereus, Bacillus megaterium, Bacillus subtilis, and Bacillus thuringiensis) were found to be the most sensitive showing MICs of 0.25-0.32% (after 24 h incubation) followed by Staphylococcus aureus (0.49%), while Listeria monocytogenes was found to be the least sensitive demonstrating a MIC of 0.67%. Of the Gram negative organisms, Salmonella enteritidis was found to be the most resistant with a MIC of 0.67% followed by Escherichia coli Type I, E. coli O157:H7, Proteus vulgaris and Hafnia alvei having MICs of 0.63%, 0.60%, 0.55% and 0.45%, respectively; whereas Citrobacter freundii was found to be the least resistant surviving up to 0.42%. Some loss of antimicrobial activity was, however, observed after incubation for 3 days. Bacteriostatic/bactericidal effects of sumac, as studied by enumerating survival by the viable count technique after 1 h direct contact of each microorganism with various concentrations of sumac extract, revealed a 4-5 log cycle reduction in Bacillus spp. and 2-3 log cycle reduction in other bacteria tested with 1.0% sumac extract.