The antimicrobial activity of essential oils (EOs) of cinnamon bark, cinnamon leaf, and clove against Listeria monocytogenes Scott A were studied in semiskimmed milk incubated at 7 degrees C for 14 days and at 35 degrees C for 24 h. The MIC was 500 ppm for cinnamon bark EO and 3,000 ppm for the cinnamon leaf and clove EOs. These effective concentrations increased to 1,000 ppm for cinnamon bark EO, 3,500 ppm for clove EO, and 4,000 ppm for cinnamon leaf EO when the semiskimmed milk was incubated at 35 degrees C for 24 h. Partial inhibitory concentrations and partial bactericidal concentrations were obtained for all the assayed EOs. The MBC was 3,000 ppm for the cinnamon bark EO, 10,500 ppm for clove EO, and 11,000 ppm for cinnamon leaf EO. The incubation temperature did not affect the MBC of the EOs but slightly increased the MIC at 35 degrees C. The increased activity at the lower temperature could be attributed to the increased membrane fluidity and to the membrane-perturbing action of EOs. The influence of the fat content of milk on the antimicrobial activity of EOs was tested in whole and skimmed milk. In milk samples with higher fat content, the antimicrobial activity of the EOs was reduced. These results indicate the possibility of using these three EOs in milk beverages as natural antimicrobials, especially because milk beverages flavored with cinnamon and clove are consumed worldwide and have been increasing in popularity in recent years.