The mean dietary exposure to the nutrient elements iodine, Fe, Se and Na by eight age–sex groups of the New Zealand population was estimated from foods purchased and prepared as for consumption. A total of 968 samples comprising 121 foods were collected and analysed. Mean daily exposures were calculated from mean concentration levels of the selected nutrients in each food combined with simulated diets for a 25+-year-old male and female, a 19–24-year-old male, a 11–14-year-old boy and girl, a 5–6-year-old child, a 1–3-year-old toddler and a 6–12-month-old infant. Food concentrations and dietary exposures are reported and compared with nutrient reference values (for example, recommended daily intakes, adequate intakes or upper limits). Dietary iodine exposures for all age–sex groups were well below recommended levels and have steadily decreased since 1982, raising concern especially for the physical and mental development of infants and young children. Fe exposures meet the recommended daily intake for the average male and 11–14 year olds but are only about half that recommended for adult females. Se exposure is about 20 % less than optimal for females. Na exposures, excluding discretionary salt, are above the acceptable exposure level for all age–sex groups, and exceed the upper intake limits for 25+-year-old males, 19–24-year-old young males, and 11–14-year-old boys and girls by up to 125 % for an average consumer.