The inactivation of eight different bacteria comprising Escherichia coli LMM1010 and MG1655, respectively a pressure resistant strain and the corresponding wild-type, Salmonella Typhimurium, Pseudomonas fluorescens, Staphylococcus aureus, Enterococcus faecalis, Listeria innocua and Lactobacillus plantarum, by high hydrostatic pressure in skim milk supplemented with the lactoperoxidase-hydrogen peroxide-thiocyanate (LP) system at naturally occurring concentration was studied. In the absence of pressure treatment, the LP system had either no effect, i.e. on S. Typhimurium and E. coli LMM1010, a growth inhibiting effect, i.e. on E. coli MG1655, L. innocua, S. aureus, L. plantarum and E. faecalis, or a bactericidal effect, i.e. on P. fluorescens. The presence of the LP system affected inactivation by high pressure in a cell density-dependent manner. At low cell concentration (10(6) cfu/ml), the LP system strongly increased high-pressure inactivation as measured immediately after pressure treatment of all bacteria except the pressure-resistant E. coli. At high cell density (10(9) cfu/ml), only inactivation of L. innocua, E. faecalis and L. plantarum were enhanced. For both E. coli strains, the fate of the bacteria during 24 h following pressure treatment was also studied. It was found that in the presence of the LP system, considerable further inactivation occurred in the first hours after pressure treatment. The potential of the LP system to improve the bactericidal efficiency of high pressure treatment for food preservation is discussed. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.