Epidemiological evidence suggests that higher consumption of whole-grain foods can significantly reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as CVD, type 2 diabetes and some cancers. The present study compares whole-grain intake of 2086 adults aged 16-64 years from the 1986-7 Dietary and Nutritional Survey of British Adults with that of 1692 adults aged 19-64 years from the 2000-1 National Diet and Nutrition Survey. For each survey, whole-grain intake was estimated from consumption of all foods containing > or = 10% whole-grain content (as DM/fresh weight of food) from 7d weighed dietary records. In 1986-7, median whole-grain intake was 16 (interquartile range 0-45) g/d v. 14 (interquartile range 0-36) g/d in 2000-1 (P< 0.001). In 1986-7, 77% of adults had less than three 16 g amounts of whole-grain intake/d; 25 % reported no whole-grain intake. In 2000-1, corresponding percentages were 84 and 29%, respectively. Foods with <51% whole-grain content provided 18% of whole-grain intake in 1986-7 v. 27% in 2000-1 (P<0.001). In both surveys, whole-grain intake was significantly lower among adults with a manual v. non-manual occupation (indicative of lower socio-economic status) and among smokers v. non-smokers, independent of occupational social class. In 1986-7, whole-grain breakfast cereals and wholemeal bread contributed 28 and 48% of whole-grain intake, respectively, v. 45 and 31% in 2000-1. At each time, one-third of adults consumed neither of these two largest contributors to whole-grain intake. Findings from the present study suggest that whole-grain intake of British adults was low in 1986-7 and became even lower over the subsequent decade.