Diarrheagenic Escherichia coli (DEC) is a leading cause of foodborne illness associated with intestinal disease. While known over the years that contamination of food sources occurs via the oral faecal-route, the mechanisms underlying its persistence within the open environments including the food chain remains virtually unknown. Therefore, in this mini-review we will shed light on bacterial processes such as initial attachment, biofilm formation, horizontal gene transfer and response to environmental stresses. These factors may enable persistence of DEC as well as the emergence of potentially more virulent strains within the agricultural and food production environment. Mechanistic studies in clinical microbiology and immunology have elucidated infection pathways in the human and other animal bodies leading to diagnostic and treatment solutions. Therefore, understanding DEC behaviour in the agricultural and food production environment is crucial for ensuring food safety and public health by reducing the burden of foodborne illnesses.