Tellurite-containing media are widely used for the screening and isolation of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) O157:H7, but tellurite resistance among non-O157 STEC is poorly characterized. Therefore, we investigated 202 STEC strains representing 61 different serotypes from humans, animals or food for the presence of ter genes by PCR and their correlation with tellurite resistance, by assessing growth on cefixime-tellurite sorbitol MacConkey agar. All strains were screened for terC, terE and terF as markers for the ter gene cluster. Of the 202 strains, 127 contained terC and terE and were tellurite-resistant, but only 121 of these also contained terF. All 72 non-sorbitol-fermenting O157:H7 and O157:NM (non-motile) strains contained terC, terE and terF and expressed tellurite resistance. In contrast, all eight sorbitol-fermenting STEC O157:NM were terC-, terE- and terF-negative and tellurite-sensitive. Among non-O157 STEC, terC, terE and terF were found in all seven O145:NM, four O111:H8/NM, 17 of 18 O26:H11/NM and in 21 strains of 14 other serotypes. The strong correlation between the presence of ter genes and the ability to grow on tellurite-containing media suggest that the ter genes encode tellurite resistance in the vast majority of these strains. The presence of the ter gene cluster was significantly (P<0.00001) associated with the presence of eae genes. We conclude that the use of tellurite-containing media in screening for STEC will allow the detection of STEC O26, O111, O145 and non-sorbitol-fermenting O157, but most strains (in this study 74.3%) from other serotypes will be missed.