Sesame seed products have recently been associated with a number of Salmonella outbreaks in the UK and elsewhere. Aside from sesame seeds, there is little published information on the prevalence of Salmonella spp. in edible seeds. A study of 3735 samples of retail edible dried seeds in the UK was therefore carried out between October 2007 and March 2008 to assess their microbiological safety in relation to Salmonella contamination and levels of Escherichia coli, an indicator of faecal contamination. Overall, Salmonella was detected in 23 samples (0.6%), of which over half (57%) were sesame seeds. Other seeds contaminated with Salmonella were linseed (1 sample), sunflower (1 sample), alfalfa (1 sample), melon (4 samples) and mixed seeds (3 samples). E. coli was detected in 9% of samples, with 1.5% containing unsatisfactory levels (> or = 10(2)/g). These included melon, pumpkin, sesame, hemp, poppy, linseed, sunflower and mixed seeds. The UK retailers affected by the detection of Salmonella in their products recalled the contaminated batches, and Food Standards Agency food alerts were issued to advise against the consumption of affected seed products. This study highlights the importance of good hygiene practices and effective decontamination procedures during the production of these products.