Dairy foods are produced and enjoyed the world over as part of a healthy diet. As with other foods, however, contamination with bacterial pathogens can present a risk to public health, resulting in sporadic illness or outbreaks of disease. Many of the bacterial pathogens associated with dairy food transmission are naturally found in the dairy environment, and understanding their ecology is fundamental to directing appropriate food safety controls. This review will discuss the key pathogenic bacteria associated with modern dairy food production, including their biology, ecology and association with categories of dairy foods. Control measures and their application point along the dairy food supply continuum will be highlighted.