The objective of this research was to determine the microbiological profile of tahin helva, a low moisture confectionery. A total of 63 tahin helva samples were collected from the retail markets in Izmir, Turkey. These samples were examined by standard procedures for aerobic plate count (APC) and counts of moulds and yeasts, Enterobacteriaceae, Staphylococcus aureus and Salmonella spp. APC of samples ranged from < 10 to 1.6 x 10(5) cfu/g. The counts for moulds, yeasts and Enterobacteriaceae ranged from < 10 to 1.8 x 10(3), < 10 to 7 x 10(2), < 10 to 8.5 x 10(2) cfu/g, respectively. None of the samples contained S. aureus or Salmonella. The potential for survival of S. aureus in the product stored at refrigeration (4 degrees C) and room (20 degrees C) temperatures was evaluated by artificial contamination. S. aureus cells were still recovered after 9 months of storage at both temperatures. The results of this investigation indicate that S. aureus contamination of tahin helva, (a(w) of 0.172) may constitute a potential public health hazard, depending on the extent of contamination and mishandled exercise at the sale area and the kitchen. (c) 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.