A sensitive monitoring of contaminants in food and environment, such as chemical compounds, toxins and pathogens, is essential to assess and avoid risks for both, human and environmental health. To accomplish this, there is a high need for sensitive, robust and cost-effective biosensors that make real time and in situ monitoring possible. Due to their high sensitivity, selectivity and versatility, affinity-based biosensors are interesting for monitoring contaminants in food and environment. Antibodies have long been the most popular affinity-based recognition elements, however recently a lot of research effort has been dedicated to the development of novel recognition elements with improved characteristics, like specificity, stability and cost-efficiency. This review discusses three of these innovative affinity-based recognition elements, namely, phages, nucleic acids and molecular imprinted polymers and gives an overview of biosensors for food and environmental applications where these novel affinity-based recognition elements are applied.