Powdered black pepper from Egyptian markets, was irradiated with different recommended doses of gamma rays (5.0 and 10.0 kGy) and with microwaves for different periods (20, 40 and 75 s) to improve its hygienic quality. The most common bacterial isolates were of three genera Bacillus, Clostridium and Micrococcus (7.5 x 10(6)), whereas the predominant fungi (7.8 x 10(4)) were Aspergillus species, A. glaucus, A. flavus, A. niger and A. ochraceus. Doses of gamma irradiation used (5.0 and 10 kGy) were sufficient to decrease spore-forming bacteria (SFB) and to inhibit the fungal flora and coliforms which contaminated the black pepper powder. Microwave treatments for 40 s and 75 s were of the same effectiveness whereas treatment for 20 s was less so. GLC analysis proved the presence of 31 peaks, only 19 compounds were identified as monoterpene hydrocarbons (56.21%), the major one being beta-phellandrene and limonene. Sesquiterpenes were also present, mainly beta-caryollphyllene (3.69%) as well as oxygenated compounds such as terpenol, geraniol, Me-chavicol, eugenol and anisol. Gamma irradiation at 5 kGy and 10 kGy respectively decreased the numbers of identified compounds from 21 (86.58% concentration) in untreated pepper to 16 (59.22% concentration), 15 (54.06% concentration). In comparison, microwave treatments, particularly for 40 s and 75 s, increased the concentration of the same compounds. The results obtained indicate that microwave treatment, under these conditions, is a safe and suitable technique for decontamination of black pepper which does not result in a great loss of flavour compounds, as compared with recommended doses of gamma irradiation.