Nutrition monitoring entails a coordinated effort in the continuing collection of diet and health information and periodic publishing of results. In the United States, data from nutritional monitoring is used for dietary guidelines, policy making, fortification, and food-assistance programs. The National Nutrition Monitoring and Related Research Act of 1990 provides a 10-year plan for nutrition monitoring in the U.S. The act stipulated that the following five activities would occur:
The first activity is performed through the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics, which is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The most recent survey completed, NHANES III, collected data from 1988 to 1994. The number of participants for this survey was 33,994. NHANES III consisted of 24-hour dietary recalls, food frequency questionnaires, questions on eating habits and lifestyle, medical history, vitamin and supplement use, anthropometric measures, biochemical tests, and physical and dental exams. Information and data files from NHANES III are contained on the Internet (www.cdc.gov/nchs/nhanes.htm). Data is used for the educational publications Dietary Guidelines for Americans and Healthy People 2000.
Measures of food consumption are conducted by the Food Surveys Research Group of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) through the Continuing Survey of Food Intake of Individuals. It may also be referred to as the What We Eat in America survey. The latest survey is CSFII 94-96. This survey consists of two non-consecutive days of food intake through an interview with 15,000 people. In addition, 5765 individuals completed the Diet and Health Knowledge Survey, which covers the third activity listed above. This data is found on the Internet (www.barc.usda.gov/bhnrc/foodsurvey).
The USDA Agricultural Research Service's Nutrient Data Laboratory publishes and maintains a nutrient database. As discussed above in "Computerized Dietary Assessment," the latest version, USDA Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Version 13 contains data on 6200 foods. Nutrient data can be looked up on the Internet (www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp).
The last activity, determination of the food supply, is conducted through the Total Diet Study, which has been conducted by the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition of the Food and Drug Administration. This study has been conducted yearly and collects information on the amount of pesticides, contaminants, and nutrients in the food supply. It also examines the diets of specific age and sex groups using information from nationwide food consumption surveys. The study is able to identify and monitor trends over time. The data may be used to make policy decisions regarding food safety, additives, pesticides, fortification, and food labeling.