Techniques for estimating intake at the household level include the food account method, the inventory method, the household record, and the list recall method. These methods measure all foods and beverages available for consumption by a household or family group during a specified time period of between 1 and 4 weeks, although some last for 23 months. Wastage factors are sometimes applied. Household surveys provide data for per capita consumption of foods or nutrients, not intake for specific individuals. Data are calculated irrespective of the age and gender distribution in the household. These methods provide population data for annual mean food consumption and selection patterns, and are used for analyzing trends in intake. Household budget surveys are used more widely in Europe than elsewhere. As countries may not produce compatible data the Data Food Networking Project (DAFNE) has developed the methodology to allow the data from 11 European countries to be combined and compared.
A record is made by a respondent of details of all quantities of food entering the household (purchased, home grown, or received over a period), usually over a period of 7 days. Changes in larder stocks are not estimated as on average some households will gain and some will use up stocks. Estimates of losses and wastage during preparation are made. This method is used for the UK Expenditure and Food Survey (until 2001 the National Food Survey), and has included consumption of food, confectionery, soft drinks, and alcohol outside the home since 1992. As consumption outside the home now accounts for a substantial proportion of dietary intake in the UK the method was modified in 2001 to include the use of till receipts and individual 2-week diaries for each household member aged 7 years or older. This method can be used to measure seasonal variation in intake over 1 year.
The inventory method is similar to the food account method and respondents record all foods coming into the household. A wastage factor is often applied and a larder inventory is included at the beginning and end of the survey period.
Foods available for consumption (either raw or processed) are weighed or estimated. Foods for each meal are recorded separately to give a total for the household. Waste is measured directly or estimated. Interviewers visit the household early in the day to determine the quantity of food used to prepare the first meal and the number of individuals who consumed it. The midday meal may be weighed or recorded using estimated measures. A further interview is required later in the day. This method is appropriate for use in pre-industrial societies where literacy is low and units for buying foods not standardized.
The respondent is asked by a trained interviewer to recall the amount and cost of food obtained for household use over a period, usually of 1 week. The method takes into account food use, purchases, and acquired food, but not waste. Quantities consumed are weighed or estimated using household measures. The interview can take up to 2.5 h. Response rates are usually high. Information on the age and sex of people in the household and the number of meals eaten both in and outside the home, income, and other socioeconomic characteristics may be collected. It is helpful to notify the respondent in advance so that records of purchases can be kept prior to the interview. This method was used by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Food Consumption Survey between 1931 and 1988.
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