Staphylococcus aureus is a major foodborne pathogen and it has the ability to produce a number of extracellular toxins. We analyzed 1070 food samples obtained from retail markets and dairy farms in the Marmara Region of Turkey for the presence of S. aureus. Out of 147 isolates, 92 (62.6%) were enterotoxigenic. PCR was used to investigate the presence of staphylococcal enterotoxin genes (sea, seb, sec, sed, see, seg, seh, sei, sej, sek, sel, sem, sen, seo, sep, seq and seu), exfoliative toxin genes (eta and etb) and the toxic shock syndrome toxin gene (tst). The PCR results showed that 53.3% of the isolates contained staphylococcal enterotoxin-like (SEI) toxin genes (seg. seh, sei, sej, sek, sel, sem, sen, seo, sep, seq and seu) which were more frequent than classical enterotoxin genes (sea to see). Furthermore, sea, sei, sem, seg, seu and sec were found in 37.0, 32.7, 30.4, 29.3, 29.3 and 27.2% of the isolates, respectively. The tst gene was detected and confirmed by DNA sequencing in 9 isolates. The presence of eta and etb were not found in the isolates. Enterotoxigenic capabilities of isolates with SEA-SEE were investigated by ELISA. Enterotoxigenic S. aureus isolates produced one to three enterotoxins, with the most frequently produced types being enterotoxin A and C. There was a correlation of 72.1% between production of a specific toxin and the presence of the respective genes. PFGE analysis was used to identify genetic-relatedness of enterotoxigenic S. aureus isolates and the results revealed that 13 groups of isolates from different or the same origin that contained the same genes showed 100% homology with indistinguishable band patterns. The other enterotoxigenic isolates showed related band patterns with 72-86% homology in sea-. 61-90% homology in sec-. 80-96% homology in seh-, and 69-96% homology in sep-positive isolates. To our knowledge, this is the first study to examine enterotoxins and related gene contents of S. aureus food isolates in the Marmara Region of Turkey. (C) 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.