We report on a novel biomimetic sensor that allows sensitive and specific detection of Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria in a broad concentration range from 102 up to 106 CFU/mL in both buffer fluids and relevant food samples (i.e. apple juice). The receptors are surface-imprinted polyurethane layers deposited on stainless-steel chips. Regarding the transducer principle, the sensor measures the increase in thermal resistance between the chip and the liquid due to the presence of bacteria captured on the receptor surface. The low noise level that enables the low detection limit originates from a planar meander element that serves as both a heater and a temperature sensor. Furthermore, the experiments show that the presence of bacteria in a liquid enhances the thermal conductivity of the liquid itself. Reference tests with a set of other representative species of Enterobacteriaceae, closely related to E. coli, indicate a very low cross-sensitivity with a sensor response at or below the noise level.