Chemical, sensory and microbiological evaluation of sardine (Sardina pilchardus), with emphasis on the quality and safety parameters in modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) and vacuum packaging (VP), were investigated. Quality assessment of sardines stored in MAP (60%CO2:40%N-2) and VP for up to 15 days at 4degreesC was done by the monitoring of sensory quality, total viable counts (TVC), nucleotide degradation products, histamine, trimethylamine (TMA) and total volatile base nitrogen (TVB-N). The observed shelf life of sardine was found to be 12 days in MAP, 9 days in VP and 3 days in air. Bacteria grew most quickly in sardine stored in air, followed by those in VP and the lowest counts were with MAP. The concentration of histamine increased and its level reached over 20 mg/100 g for fish stored in air, 13 mg/100 g for VP and 10 mg/100 g for MAP at 15 days. The highest concentration of TMA was obtained from sardine stored in air, followed by sardine stored in VP and the lowest in MAP. The formation of TVB-N increased with time of storage. When the TVC had reached 10(6) cfu/g, the TVB-N content was found to be approximately 15 mg/100 g muscle for all storage conditions. (C) 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.