The aim of this study was to utilize optimized processing conditions to obtain the highest conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) contents in semi-dry fermented sausages produced with L. plantarum AB20-961 and L. plantarum DSM 2601. Optimized conditions were 5.7 meat pH, 5% hydrolyzed safflower oil addition, 10(8) CFU/g added starter culture, fermentation time of 73 h for L. plantarum DSM2601 and 79 h for L. plantarum AB20-961, 24 degrees C fermentation temperature, 65 degrees C internal cooking temperature and 90% relative humidity. Results indicated that CLA contents in sausages were increased 21% by L. plantarum AB20-961 and 121% by L. plantarum DSM2601 after fermentation compared to initial CLA level determined on manufacturing day (P < .05). After fermentation, an increased CLA content of sausages remained stable during heat processing and storage. Sausages incorporated with L. plantarum strains and hydrolyzed safflower oil had the highest TBARS and PUFA levels, and the lowest pH and moisture content (P < .05). Differences were not found in sensorial and other physicochemical properties among sausage treatment groups. This study demonstrated that high CLA content can be achieved in sausages by utilizing optimum processing conditions described above and starter cultures (L. plantarum AB20-961 and L. plantarum DSM2601) without any adverse effects on quality of the final product.