Previous research has shown that verotoxin-producing Escherichia coli (VTEC) O157 strains appear unable to express type 1 fimbriae although other serotypes such as O26 and O118 can. This study has investigated the molecular basis of this difference. The study confirmed the presence of a 16 bp deletion within the regulatory region of fimA (fim switch) in 63 VTEC O157 strains but not in other VTEC serotypes tested. The fim switch was shown to be detectable only in the phase off orientation in VTEC O157, but detection of the switch in the phase on orientation correlated with the degree of mannose-sensitive yeast agglutination in VTEC O26. Repair of the 16 bp deletion in the VTEC O157 fim switch region restored phase-variable expression of fimA in a permissive background. Non-O157 VTEC, especially O26 and O118, can be pathogenic in cattle; the role of type 1 fimbriae in this and colonization is discussed.