A rabbit polyclonal antibody-linked probe was developed which detected 76% of 800 food isolates of the spoilage bacterium Brochothrix thermosphacta when cells were bound to nitrocellulose. In slide cross-reaction tests all six environmental isolates tested were stained but the type strain was not. The antibody did not cross-react with Listeria grayi, L. monocytogenes, Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactococcus lactis, Streptococcus mutans, Bacillus cereus or B. subtilis. The antibody-linked probe detected Br. thermosphacta in thin sections of British fresh sausage when the viable count was greater than 10(6) g-1. Cells were detected mainly within 1 or 2 mm of the surface on the loose starchy material. They were not detected within muscle blocks or in the centre of the sausage. Such results suggest that growth of this organism occurs close to the surface of the sausage.