Prepared Foods September 27, 2004 enewsletter

After several years of careful planning, new, integrated federal nationwide food consumption data were launched on the World Wide Web for public use.

The Agricultural Research Service food consumption survey (formerly CSFII), known as “What We Eat in America,” has been integrated with the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

The NHANES is conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). ARS is the chief scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The first release of the integrated USDA-DHHS dietary survey is entitled “What We Eat In America, NHANES 2001-2002.”

Scientists in the ARS Food Surveys Research Group, which is part of the Beltsville (Md.) Human Nutrition Research Center, worked with their counterparts at the DHHS National Center for Health Statistics, which is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in Hyattsville, Md., to spearhead the integration and launch.

Previously, both federal surveys were conducted periodically, but the integrated dietary survey is conducted yearly. Before the integration, during the NHANES, only one day's worth of dietary intake data was collected from each survey respondent. However, two days of data are collected on each of about 5,000 participants during the new annual survey.

Researchers use a wide range of study designs to analyze the data.

Nutritionists, dietitians and educators rely on those analyses to help them spot and report key dietary patterns that affect consumers' health. Various policy makers also rely on such data to develop food assistance and nutritional education programs.

This survey data release represents the first time that the ARS computerized and enhanced dietary intake interview was used to conduct the NHANES. The integration of the ARS processing systems and telephone interview method with the NHANES in-person data collection capability (using a mobile examination center) highlight an effective government partnership at work.