Task 1: Key Concepts About the History of Dietary Data Collection

Federal agencies have collected food consumption data for decades.  These data are used for a variety of policy making and research purposes in the areas of nutrition monitoring and surveillance, dietary guidance, food fortification, environmental exposure assessment, and nutrition assistance and education program planning and evaluation. 


USDA Data Collection

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has collected national food consumption data for more than 70 years.  Initially designed to help people achieve economical and nutritious diets, USDA's food consumption surveys gradually broadened in scope and purpose.  Nationwide surveys were conducted in 1965-1966, 1977-1978, 1985-1986, 1987-1988, 1989-1991, 1994-1996, and 1998. 

The most recent surveys, called the Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individuals (CSFII) and conducted in 1989-1991, 1994-1996, and 1998, were combined with USDA's Diet and Health Knowledge Survey (DHKS), a telephone survey designed to measure knowledge and attitudes about diet and health. Table 1 provides an historical overview of USDA's nationwide food surveys.

Table 1.  Overview of USDA Nationwide Food Surveys, 1936–19981,2 (click to view)


HHS Data Collection

In 1971, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) added a nutrition component to its National Health Examination Survey (NHES) and the survey's name was changed to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).  Between 1971 and 1994, three NHANES collected dietary data along with health data (1971-1975, 1976-1980, 1988-1994).  In 1982-1984, Hispanic HANES was conducted to collect nutrition and health data on Mexican Americans, Cuban Americans, and Puerto Ricans.  Since 1999, NHANES has been a continuous, annual survey program. Table 2 provides an historical overview of the diet-related components of NHANES.

Table 2. Summary of NHANES Diet-related Questionnaire Content and History of use in NHANES 1,2 (click to view)


Combined Data Collection

Beginning in 2002, HHS and USDA integrated their NHANES and CSFII dietary data collection efforts.  Dietary intake data on the U.S. population are now collected continuously rather than on a periodic basis as was true for previous NHANES and CSFII surveys. HHS and USDA jointly plan the dietary interview, which is used to collect 24-hour recall data.  The dietary recall interview component is called What We Eat in America (WWEIA).  USDA has primary responsibility for the development and maintenance of the automated dietary interview system, dietary data processing, and maintenance of the technical databases that are used to report the dietary intake findings.  (For more information about USDA dietary data, see the "Resources for Dietary Data Analysis" module later in this tutorial.)  HHS is responsible for the NHANES survey sampling methodology and data collection activities.  The integration of the two survey systems has allowed the agencies to link diet information to NHANES health information, thus providing a rich resource of information to investigators and policy-makers.


For more information about the history of Dietary Data collection by USDA and NHANES and the integrated system, see the Related References page.


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