ABSTRACT: Escherichia coli encounter numerous different stresses during their growth, survival, and infection. These stresses are relevant to survival in foods and food processing environments. E. coli and other bacteria respond to stress conditions by activating small or large groups of genes under the control of common regulator proteins. Stress conditions result in the accumulation of these regulator proteins and subsequent transcription of many genes allows cells to cope with specific stress situations, conferring stress tolerance and survival. In addition, induced stress tolerance of cells is attributed to enhanced virulence and enhanced tolerance to other stresses (cross-protection). In this review, regulation of stress and the stress tolerance response of E. coli to heat, acid, starvation, and cold stresses that are commonly used in food preservation and food production will be addressed. The effect of different stress on survival, adaptation, and cross-protection of E. coli studied using laboratory media, and real foods will be briefly summarized. Finally, the relationship of stress response and subsequent virulence and cross-protection will also be discussed.