Street-vendors in Mexico City provide ready-to-eat food to a high proportion of the inhabitants. Nevertheless, their microbiological status, general hygienic and trading practices are not well known. During spring and summer 2000, five tianguis (open markets) were visited and 48 vendors in 48 stalls interviewed. A total of 103 taco dressings were sampled for E. coli and Salmonella spp.: 44 (43%) contained E. coli and 5 (5%) Salmonella (2 S. Enteritidis phage type 8, 1 S. Agona, 2 S. B group). Both E. coli and salmonellas were isolated from three samples. Of Salmonella-positive stalls 80% (4/5) had three or more food-vendors and 80% of vendors were males, compared with 37·3% (16/43) and 46·4% (20/43) in the Salmonella-negative stalls respectively. Food-vendors kept water in buckets (reusing it all day), lacked toilet facilities, and prepared taco dressings the day before which remained at the tianguis without protection for 7·8 h on average. Consumption of street-vended food by local and tourist populations poses a health risk.