OBJECTIVES: To describe and compare the consumption of dairy products in cohorts included in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC). METHODS: Data from single 24-hour dietary recall interviews collected through a highly standardised computer-based program (EPIC-SOFT) in 27 redefined centres in 10 European countries between 1995 and 2000. From a total random sample of 36 900, 22 924 women and 13 031 men were selected after exclusion of subjects under 35 and over 74 years of age. RESULTS: A high total consumption of dairy products was reported in most of the centres in Spain and in the UK cohort sampled from the general population, as well as in the Dutch, Swedish and Danish centres. A somewhat low consumption was reported in the Greek centre and in some of the Italian centres (Ragusa and Turin). In all centres and for both sexes, milk constituted the dairy sub-group with the largest proportion (in grams) of total dairy consumption, followed by yoghurt and other fermented milk products, and cheese. Still, there was a wide range in the contributions of the different dairy sub-groups between centres. The Spanish and Nordic centres generally reported a high consumption of milk, the Swedish and Dutch centres reported a high consumption of yoghurt and other fermented milk products, whereas the highest consumption of cheese was reported in the French centres. CONCLUSION: The results demonstrate both quantitative and qualitative disparities in dairy product consumption among the EPIC centres. This offers a sound starting point for analyses of associations between dairy intake and chronic diseases such as cancer.