Microbial fermentation has been used historically for the preservation of foods, the health benefits of which have since come to light. Early dairy fermentations depended on the spontaneous activity of the indigenous microbiota of the milk. Modern fermentations rely on defined starter cultures with desirable characteristics to ensure consistency and commercial viability. The selection of defined starters depends on specific phenotypes that benefit the product by guaranteeing shelf life and ensuring safety, texture, and flavour. Lactic acid bacteria can produce a number of bioactive metabolites during fermentation, such as bacteriocins, biogenic amines, exopolysaccharides, and proteolytically released peptides, among others. Prebiotics are added to food fermentations to improve the performance of probiotics. It has also been found that prebiotics fermented in the gut can have benefits that go beyond helping probiotic growth. Studies are now looking at how the fermentation of prebiotics such as fructo-oligosaccharides can help in the prevention of diseases such as osteoporosis, obesity, and colorectal cancer. The potential to prevent or even treat disease through the fermentation of food is a medically and commercially attractive goal and is showing increasing promise. However, the stringent regulation of probiotics is beginning to detrimentally affect the field and limit their application.