Foodborne diseases caused by foodborne pathogens pose risks to food safety. Effective detection and efficient inactivation of pathogenic bacteria has always been a research hotspot in the field of food safety. Complicating these goals, bacteria can be induced to adopt a viable but non-culturable (VBNC) state under adverse external environmental stresses. When in the VBNC state, pathogens cannot form visible colonies during traditional culture but remain metabolically active and toxic. The resulting false negative results in growth-related assays can jeopardize food safety. This review summarizes the latest research on VBNC foodborne pathogens, including induction conditions, detection methods, mechanism of VBNC formation, and possible control strategies. It is hoped that this review can provide ideas and methods for future research on VBNC foodborne pathogenic bacteria.