A bacteriophage typing scheme for differentiating Listeria isolates from dairy products and various other foodstuffs was developed. Sixteen selected phages isolated from both environmental sources and lysogenic strains were used for typing and, according to their lytic spectra, divided into four groups. Thus far, 41 distinct patterns of lysis were seen when this set was used in typing 57 defined reference strains, representing all five confirmed species and 16 serotypes in addition to 454 Listeria isolates of primarily foodborne origin. Overall, typability was 84.5%; i.e., a strain was lysed by at least one phage at 100x routine test dilution. Strains belonging to serovar 3 were mostly resistant to lysis by the phages employed. The results were highly reproducible, as determined in retyping trials several weeks later. Some phages isolated from environmental sources showed a wider lytic spectrum than did those isolated from lysogenic strains. In accordance with this, the phages were found in different clusters within a computer-generated linkage map. Species specificity and serovar specificity of the lytic reaction were not found. None of the phages was able to lyse strains of Listeria grayi, Listeria murrayi or Jonesia denitrificans. This phage typing system may provide important information for a means of recognizing and eliminating sources of contamination by Listeria spp. within dairy plant equipment.