The objective of the Vegetal Estrogens in Nutrition and the Skeleton (VENUS) project was to evaluate existing data on dietary exposure to compounds with oestrogenic and anti-oestrogenic effects present in plant foods as constituents or contaminants, and to identify and disseminate in vitro and in vivo methodologies to analyse the effects of such compounds on bone. To permit the assessment of exposure to isoflavones in European populations (Italy, the UK, Ireland, The Netherlands), the VENUS database of phyto-oestrogen levels in foods was established. Data on the isoflavone (genistein and daidzein) content of 791 foods, including almost 300 foods commonly consumed in Europe, were collected. Levels of coumestrol, formononetin and biochanin A in a limited number of foods were also included. Lignan levels (secoisolariciresinol and matairesinol) in 158 foods were incorporated into the database, which also contains information on the references sourced for the compositional data, on the analytical methods used by each author and on the number of foods analysed in each reference. The VENUS database was constructed in Microsoft® Access 2000, which is widely available as part of Microsoft® Office Professional. This paper outlines the procedures used for the selection and evaluation of existing literature data for incorporation into the database. In addition, the design of the database is described, along with the data entry and quality control procedures used in its construction. Limitations of the data are discussed and guidelines for its use are provided.