EFSA - Dietary monitoring tools for risks assessment

Partners: Institute of Food Research (UK) and Institute for Medical Research (RS),Hellenic Health Foundation (GR)

Background 

The EFSA Dietary and Chemical Monitoring (DCM) Unit deals with the collection, collation and analysis of data on food consumption and chemical occurrence in food and
feed for exposure assessments. The harmonisation of the dietary assessment methods and food consumption data collected in the Member States is therefore a pre-requisite for dietary monitoring, exposure and risk assessment purposes at European level. To further improve the accuracy of EFSA’s exposure assessments, an important priority is the collection of harmonised food consumption data from the Member States.

The EFSA Guidance on “General Principles for the collection of national food consumption data in the view of a pan-European dietary survey”, compiled by the EFSA Expert Group on Food Consumption Data, recommends that surveys cover two non-consecutive days and use the dietary record method for infants and children and the 24-hour recall method for adults. The priority for collecting harmonised data has been further addressed through the preparation of the first pan-European food consumption survey called “What‟s on the Menu in Europe? (EU Menu), which is expected to be launched in full in 2013. In a pan-European dietary survey, data collection needs to be performed in a standardised way that would generate comparable results. Nevertheless, several European countries have already developed, tested and applied in-house data collection protocols and they may be reluctant to replace established data collection methods since a change would not only require additional resources, but may also obfuscate food consumption trend analysis. These national dietary monitoring methods and related tools have rarely been tested or applied outside the country of origin.

In the context of data harmonisation, understanding the measurement error inserted by data collection and analysis is essential in understanding whether different data collection tools could provide equivalent results. In addition, national protocols and tools have specific features addressing the characteristics of different European populations. Understanding the country-specific aspects of existing tools could provide important insight that could facilitate data standardisation for EFSA’s dietary risk assessment purposes.