Individual food consumption surveys (IFCS) are performed to evaluate compliance with food/nutrient intake requirements or exposure to potential harmful dietary contaminants/components. In this review, we inventoried methods and designs used in national IFCS and discussed the methodologies applied across countries. Literature searches were performed using fixed sets of search terms in different online databases. We identified IFCS in thirty-nine countries from six world continents. National IFCS systems are available in most of the high-income countries, while such surveys are scarce in low- and middle-income countries (e.g. Africa, Eastern Europe and several Asian countries). Few countries (n 9) have their national IFCS incorporated into national health and nutrition surveys, allowing the investigation of dietary-related disease outcomes. Of the integrated surveys, most have the advantage of being continuous/regular, contrary to other IFCS that are mostly erratic. This review serves as the basis to define gaps and needs in IFCS worldwide and assists in defining priorities for resource allocation. In addition, it can serve as a source of inspiration for countries that do not have an IFCS system in place yet and advocate for national IFCS to be incorporated into national health and nutrition surveys in order to create: (1) research opportunities for investigating diet–disease relationships and (2) a frame to plan and evaluate the effect of diet-related policies (e.g. promotion of local nutrient-rich foods) and of nutrition recommendations, such as food-based dietary guidelines. Countries that integrate their IFCS within their national health and nutrition survey can serve as proof-of-principle for other countries.