Collection of complete and accurate dietary intake data is necessary to investigate the association of nutrient intakes with disease outcomes. A standardised multiple-pass 24 h dietary recall method was used in the International Collaborative Study of Macro- and Micronutrients and Blood Pressure (INTERMAP) to obtain maximally objective data. Dietary interviewers were intensively trained and recalls taped, with consent, for randomly selected evaluations by the local site nutritionist (SN) and/or country nutritionists (CN) using a twelve-criterion checklist marked on a four-point scale (1, retrain, to 4, excellent). In the Belfast centre, seven dietary interviewers collected 932 24 h recalls from 40–59-year-old men and women. Total scores from the 134 evaluated recalls ranged from thirty-four to the maximum forty-eight points. All twelve aspects of the interviews were completed satisfactorily on average whether scored by the SN (n 53, range: probing 3·25 to privacy of interview 3·98) or CN (n 19, range: probing 3·26 to pace of interview and general manner of interviewer 3·95); the CN gave significantly lower scores than the SN for recalls evaluated by both nutritionists (n 31, Wilcoxon signed rank test, P=0·001). Five evaluations of three recalls identified areas requiring retraining or work to improve performance. Reporting accuracy was estimated using BMR; energy intake estimates less than 1·2 × BMR identifying under-reporting. Mean ratios in all age, sex and body-mass groups were above this cut-off point; overall, 26·1 % were below. Experiences from the INTERMAP Belfast centre indicate that difficulties in collection of dietary information can be anticipated and contained by the systematic use of methods to prevent, detect and correct errors.