ABSTRACT Food contamination by foodborne pathogens is still widespread in many countries around the world, and food safety is a major global public health issue. Therefore, novel preservatives that can guarantee safer food are in high demand. Contrary to artificial food preservatives, tea polyphenols (TPs) are getting wide attention as food additives for being “green,” “safe,” and “healthy.” TPs come from many sources, and the purification technology is sophisticated. Compared with other natural antibacterial agents, the antibacterial effect of TPs is more stable, making them excellent natural antibacterial agents. This review includes a systematic summary of the important chemical components of TPs and the antibacterial mechanisms of TPs against various foodborne pathogens. The potential applications of TPs are also discussed. These data provide a theoretical basis for the in-depth study of TPs. HIGHLIGHTS TPs are food additives considered “green,” “safe,” and “healthy.” The antibacterial mechanisms of TPs against foodborne pathogens are described. The potential application areas of TPs are highlighted.