Alheiras are traditional smoked naturally fermented meat sausages produced in the north of Portugal. They have not previously been characterized as to their chemical and microbiological status. pH and salt levels are insufficient to assure microbiological safety, there is ample opportunity for post-cooking contamination; the products require chill storage and cooking before consumption. Heavy metals and biogenic amines were, in general, within accepted limits for meat products. Lactic acid bacteria comprised the major microflora (ca. 7-8 log cfu/g) with substantial counts of micrococci and enterococci (up to 7 log cfu/g). Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Listeria spp. were detected in several samples.