With the advent of computers, semiautomated and automated instrumentation for the detection and enumeration of food‐related microorganisms has increased dramatically. The conventional standard plate count method has been partially or fully automated, and many alternative methods for estimation of the density of microbial populations on the basis of measurement of the amplitude of a selected parameter(s) have been introduced during the past two decades. The drive to update and modernize techniques is based upon recognition of the major role that microorganisms play in the spoilage of food and in the transmission of food poisoning and foodborne diseases. This presentation reviews the areas in which instrumentation has been used to assist food microbiologists in detecting or enumerating microorganisms. The simplified, automated technologies for early detection of food contaminants will contribute greatly to the safety of foods and thus to an improvement in public health.