In the past 25 years, Listeria monocytogenes has become increasingly important as a food-associated pathogen. Most European Union countries have an annual incidence of human listeriosis of between two and ten reported cases per million. Because of its high case fatality rate, listeriosis ranks among the most frequent causes of death due to food-borne illness. Listeria monocytogenes infections are responsible for the highest hospitalisation rates (91%) amongst known food-borne pathogens and have been linked to sporadic episodes and large outbreaks of human illness worldwide. The ability to persist in food-processing environments and multiply under refrigeration temperatures makes L. monocytogenes a significant threat to public health. Listeria monocytogenes contamination is one of the leading microbiological causes of food recalls, mainly of meat, poultry, seafood and dairy products. Prevention and control measures are based on hazard analysis and critical control point programmes throughout the food industry, and on specific recommendations for high-risk groups. Understanding how these micro-organisms adapt their cellular physiology to overcome stress is important in controlling L. monocytogenes in food environments.