story to find out more.
The New, Improved and Integrated Food
Survey By Judy
March 20, 2001
When the nationwide food survey begins in 2002, interviewers
will be armed with new tools to ensure that their data collection accurately
reflects what people eat in America.
In addition to the traditional measuring cups, spoons and
rulers, interviewers will have a new Food Model Booklet full of scientifically
designed, life-size pictures. These will help respondents better estimate the
size of that slice of pizza, serving of french fries or glass of cola they
consumed during the previous 24 hours. It's one result of three years of work
by scientists in the Agricultural Research
Surveys Research Group in Beltsville, Md.
To put the servings in perspective, the researchers had a grid,
wedges, circles and several amorphous mounds printed on transparent pages that
overlie a full-size dinner plate straddled by a full-size knife. The
different-sized moundsfor estimating foods ranging from a dollop of
whipped cream to a heap of spaghettiappear to have depth.
The researchers also expanded and improved the method of
questioning respondents to help them remember forgotten foodsnonalcoholic
and alcoholic beverages, sweets, snacks, breads and other easily overlooked
foods. This new Multiple Pass Method has a number of built-in cues to help jog
In two pilot studies, respondents recalled eating more foods
than were reported by their counterparts in the last survey, according to
research leader Alanna Moshfegh. In one study, they reported 300 more calories,
on average. To further ensure accuracy, the survey research group automated the
whole interview, computerizing questions, prompts, and details about the food
and how it was prepared. The program contains 2,400 questions about foods with
21,000 possible answers.
The USDA nationwide food survey is being integrated with the
National Health and Nutrition
Examination Surveybetter known as NHANESwhich is directed by
the U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services' National Center for Health
Statistics in Hyattsville, Md. That means respondents will give their food
intakes and also receive a comprehensive physical exam in NHANES' mobile exam
The Agricultural Research Service is the chief scientific
research agency of the U.S. Department of
Scientific contact: Alanna Moshfegh, ARS
Research Group, Beltsville, Md., phone (301) 504-0170, fax (301) 504-0376,