Over the last 2 decades, a variety of bacteriocins, produced by bacteria that kill or inhibit the growth of other bacteria, have been identified and characterized biochemically and genetically. This review article focuses on the ecology of bacteriocins, determination of bacteriocin activity, biosynthesis of bacteriocins, and mode of action. Bacteriocin production and modeling are discussed in the article. Nisin is discussed in some detail in this article since it is currently the only purified bacteriocin approved for food use in the U.S. and has been successfully used for several decades as a food preservative in more than 50 countries. For activity spectra and food applications, the review article focuses primarily on class I and class IIa bacteriocins produced by lactic acid bacteria (LAB) given their development as food preservatives.