This study investigated the possibility that sublethal food preservation stresses (high or low temperature and osmotic and pH stress) can lead to changes in the nature and scale of antibiotic resistance (ABR) expressed by three food-related pathogens (Escherichia coli, Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium, and Staphylococcus aureus). The study found that some sublethal stresses significantly altered antibiotic resistance. Incubation at sublethal high temperature (45 degrees C) decreased ABR. Incubation under increased salt (> 4.5%) or reduced pH (< 5.0) conditions increased ABR. Some of the pathogens continued to express higher levels of ABR after removal of stress, suggesting that in some cases the applied sublethal stress had induced stable increases in ABR. These results indicate that increased use of bacteriostatic (sublethal), rather than bactericidal (lethal), food preservation systems may be contributing to the development and dissemination of ABR among important food-borne pathogens.