The objective of the present study was to investigate the relationship between total and subtypes of bacterial fermented food intake (dairy products, cheese, vegetables and meat) and mortality due to all causes, total cancer and CVD. From the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition-Netherlands cohort, 34 409 Dutch men and women, aged 20–70 years who were free from CVD or cancer at baseline, were included. Baseline intakes of total and subtypes of fermented foods were measured with a validated FFQ. Data on the incidence and causes of death were obtained from the national mortality register. Cox proportional hazards models were used to analyse mortality in relation to the quartiles of fermented food intake. After a mean follow-up of 15 (sd 2·5) years, 2436 deaths occurred (1216 from cancer and 727 from CVD). After adjustment for age, sex, total energy intake, physical activity, education level, hypertension, smoking habit, BMI, and intakes of fruit, vegetables and alcohol, total fermented food intake was not found to be associated with mortality due to all causes (hazard ratio upper v. lowest quartile (HRQ4 v. Q1) 1·00, 95 % CI 0·88, 1·13), cancer (HRQ4 v. Q1 1·02, 95 % CI 0·86, 1·21) or CVD (HRQ4 v. Q1 1·04, 95 % CI 0·83, 1·30). Bacterial fermented foods mainly consisted of fermented dairy foods (78 %) and cheese (16 %). None of the subtypes of fermented foods was consistently related to mortality, except for cheese which was moderately inversely associated with CVD mortality, and particularly stroke mortality (HRQ4 v. Q1 0·59, 95 % CI 0·38, 0·92, Ptrend= 0·046). In conclusion, the present study provides no strong evidence that intake of fermented foods, particularly fermented dairy foods, is associated with mortality.