Resistant starch (RS) is defined as 'the sum of starch and products of starch degradation not absorbed in the small intestine of healthy individuals'. This basic definition includes different types of starches that (1) are physically inaccessible, usually due to an encapsulation in intact cell walls, or (2) are naturally highly resistant to mammalian a-amylase, or (3) have been modified by hydrothermic treatments then retrograded. Interest in RS has increased significantly during the last two decades, mostly due to its capacity to produce a large amount of butyrate all along the colon. Butyrate has been observed to have a range of effects on cell metabolism, differentiation and cell growth as well as inhibition of a variety of factors that underlie the initiation, progression and growth of colon tumours. The physiological definition of RS, which seems to be nearly consensual, raises a difficulty in proper analytical quantification of RS. A number of methods have, however, been proposed and provide similar values for the RS content in most of the starch types and starchy foods. It seems, however, that some starches, proven to be partly resistant according to in vivo investigations on ileostomy subjects, could not be quantified by most of these methods. This may be due to a widespread use of glucoamylase during the first steps of these methods. Accordingly, there is an international debate on health aspects of RS and on how to quantify the RS content of food products. The present review describes aspects of classification of RS, past and current consumption, physiological effects and analytical aspects, and concludes with impacts on food and product labelling.