Radio frequency electric fields (RFEF) nonthermal processing effectively inactivates gram-negative bacteria in juices, but has yet to be shown effective at reducing gram-positive bacteria. Apple cider containing Lactobacillus plantarum ATCC 49445, a gram-positive bacterium, was RFEF processed under the following conditions: field strength of 0.15 to 15 kV/cm, temperature of 45 to 55 degrees C, frequency of 5 to 65 kHz, treatment time of 170 micros, and holding time of 5 to 50 s. The effect of refrigerating the inoculated cider prior to processing, the extent of sublethal injury, and the effect of storing the treated cider for 35 days were investigated. The population of L. plantarum was reduced by 1.0 log at 15 kV/cm, 20 kHz, and 50 degrees C, with a 5-s hold time. There is a synergistic effect between RFEF and heat above 50 degrees C. Inactivation significantly (P < 0.05) increased as frequency was decreased from 65 to 5 kHz. Inactivation increased linearly with field above 8 kV/cm. Holding cider at 55 degrees C after RFEF treatment for 5 and 50 s resulted in 2.5- and 3.1-log reductions, respectively. The surviving population was composed of 1.4-log sublethally injured cells. Storing processed cider at 4 degrees C for 35 days steadily and significantly (P < 0.05) reduced L. plantarum from 4.5 to 0.9 log CFU/ml. The electrical energy density was 51 J/ml. This provides the first evidence that nonthermal RFEF processing inactivates gram-positive bacteria, and that surviving cells may die off during refrigerated storage.