Twenty-two bacteriophages, isolated from cheese-vat whey samples over a period of 4 years, were found to be active against one or more of four different strains of Lactococcus lactis subsp. cremoris used in a defined strain starter system in an Irish Cheddar cheese factory. All the phages were small isometric-headed with non-contractile tails, a baseplate and a collar; they had genome sizes of approximately 30 kb, and belonged to a single DNA hybridization group. All 22 phages could be classified into four distinct groups based on restriction analysis which overlapped perfectly with those based on host range. Each group of phage examined showed cross-reactive host ranges. None of the phage DNAs hybridized to the chromosomes of any of the seven cultures used in the factory during the four cheesemaking seasons, and neither could phages be induced from any of the strains by mitomycin-C or ultraviolet light treatment.