BACKGROUND: The aim of the Western Australian (WA) Food Security Project was to conduct a preliminary investigation into issues relating to food security in one region within the Perth metropolitan area in Western Australia. The first phase of the project involved a food audit in one lower income area that was typical of the region, to identify the range, variety and availability of foods in the region. METHODS: A comprehensive food audit survey was provided to all food outlet owners/operators in one lower socio-economic region within the City of Mandurah (n = 132 outlets). The purpose of the survey was to investigate the range, variety and availability of foods in the Mandurah region as well as examining specific in-store characteristics such as the types of clientele and in-store promotions offered. Surveys were competed for 99 outlets (response rate = 75%). RESULTS: The range of foods available were predominantly pre-prepared with more than half of the outlets pre-preparing the majority of their food. Sandwiches and rolls were the most popular items sold in the outlets surveyed (n = 51 outlets) followed by pastries such as pies, sausage rolls and pasties (n = 33 outlets). Outlets considered their healthiest food options were sandwiches or rolls (n = 51 outlets), salads (n- = 50 outlets), fruit and vegetables (n = 40 outlets), seafood (n = 27 outlets), meats such as chicken (n = 26 outlets and hot foods such as curries, soups or quiches (n = 23 outlets). The majority of outlets surveyed considered pre-prepared food including sandwiches, rolls and salads, as healthy food options regardless of the content of the filling or dressings used. Few outlets (n = 28%) offered a choice of bread type other than white or wholemeal. High fat pastries and dressings were popular client choices (n = 77%) as were carbonated drinks (n = 88%) and flavoured milks (n = 46%). CONCLUSION: These findings clearly indicate the need for further investigation of the impact of access to quality, healthy foods at reasonable cost (food security) on public health, particularly in lower socio-economic areas.