Food composition tables were studied from nine European countries participating in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC): Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Great Britain, Italy, The Netherlands, Spain and Sweden. They were compared from the point view of availability, definition, analytical methods, and mode of expression of the nutrients of interest for EPIC, and it was seen that most of the nutrients in the tables are analysed and expressed in a compatible way. For some nutrients, however, common methods and definitions (folate, dietary fibre), or modes of expression (energy, protein, carbohydrates, carotenes, vitamin A and E) have not yet been agreed upon, so values are not comparable. For vitamin C a wide range of values are found due to the high natural variation in foods. For compiled tables, an additional problem is the use of several sources which may mean that the nutritional values are not comparable within the same table; and these values cannot be converted if the source is not stated. In addition, some tables were compiled using food composition values produced over 20 years ago with outdated analytical methods. In view of the inconsistent values for some nutrients and due to the large amount of foods reported within EPIC, it was concluded that standardised food composition tables have to be developed for the nine European countries involved in EPIC in order to provide comparable nutrient intake data.