Attenuated starter bacteria cannot produce acid during cheese manufacture, but contain enzymes that contribute to cheese ripening. The aim of this study was to investigate attenuation of starter bacteria using high pressure treatment, for use in combination with a primary starter for Cheddar cheese manufacture, and to determine the effect of such adjunct cultures on secondary proteolysis during ripening. Lactococcus lactis ssp. cremoris HP and L. lactis ssp. cremoris 303 were attenuated by pressure treatment at 200 MPa for 20 min at 20 degrees C. Cheddar cheese was manufactured using untreated cultures of both these starter strains, either alone or in combination with their high pressure-treated equivalents. High pressure-treated starters did not produce acid during cheese manufacture and starter counts in cheeses manufactured using high pressure-treated starter did not differ from those of the controls. Higher levels of cell lysis were apparent in cheese manufactured using high pressure-treated strains than in the controls after 26 d of ripening. Small differences were observed in the peptide profiles of cheeses, analysed by reversed-phase HPLC; cheeses manufactured using high pressure-treated starters also had slightly higher levels of amino acids than the relevant controls. Overall, addition of high pressure-treated starter bacteria as a secondary starter culture accelerated secondary proteolysis in Cheddar cheese. (c) 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.