A cross-sectional telephone survey was conducted in Denmark throughout 2009 to determine the incidence of acute gastrointestinal illness (AGI). Using the Danish population register, a random population sample stratified by gender and age groups was selected and mobile or landline phone numbers found. Representative numbers of interviews were performed by gender, age group and month. A recently proposed international case definition of AGI, including cases with diarrhoea and/or vomiting in a 4-week recall period, was used. A total of 1853 individuals were included and 206 (11·1%) fulfilled the case definition; 78% reported diarrhoea. This corresponds to an overall standardized incidence rate of 1·4 (95% CI 1·2–1·6) episodes of AGI per person-year. The incidence rate was generally higher in the younger age groups; only being 2·3, 1·9 and 0·80 per person-year in the 0–9, 10–39 and ⩾40 years age groups, respectively. The incidence rate estimates were considerably higher when calculated from shorter recall periods.