EFSA, the European Food Safety Authority has published results from a project contracted to Creme that investigates the feasibility of developing a “Compiled European Food Consumption Database”. Creme worked closely with EFSA on the data analysis, methodology development and the report.
National food consumption surveys are a valuable resource for monitoring general health, estimating acute and long-term exposure as well as offering a way to measure the impact of health initiatives. EFSA’s important role in risk assessment relies on accurate and comprehensive information relating to food consumption and eating habits of people across Europe.
Most European countries produce their own national food consumption surveys using different methodologies. Combining these into an overall European food consumption database raises a number of questions. Firstly, survey methodologies differ between countries. For example, differences in the collection of data and the time frame of the survey. This limits comparisons between surveys. Secondly, not all national surveys are publicly available, making it difficult to publish results from such data, limiting transparency. Thirdly, food consumption surveys tend to be of short duration, typically 1-7 days in length, providing food consumption data for a short time period. These surveys are typically costly and time consuming. To make the most of information they hold, there is a recognised need to accurately predict long-term or ‘usual’ food intakes from the short duration of these surveys. The work recently performed by Creme, and accepted for publication by EFSA, takes a step forward to achieving these objectives.
In this study, Creme successfully simulated populations that accurately reflected the usual eating patterns of 14 countries. These simulated populations maintained the same relationships between body-weight and amount of food consumed, and the same relationship between groups of food consumed as the original food surveys. The NCI Method was used to estimate usual intakes. The success and accuracy of the simulated data was validated by comparing the energy, carbohydrates, proteins and fat intake of simulated individuals to the usual intake from the original surveys. The mean nutrient intakes from the simulated surveys were in excellent agreement with the mean nutrient intakes from the actual survey, where, on average, differing only by 0.1% or less. Furthermore, the mean intakes from the actual surveys lay within the 90% confidence intervals for the majority of the simulated data sets. Only the P97.5 tended to show slight over-estimation.
Finally, Creme developed an algorithm to create 28-day consumption diaries suitable for use in both acute and chronic assessments from the simulated data, using an Irish food diary as a test case. This demonstrates the feasibility of generating 28-day consumption diaries from short-term (1-7 day) national surveys for calculating long-term exposure estimates.
This published report represents an important step towards developing a Compiled European Food Consumption Database for European risk assessments. It opens the way to short and long term exposure assessments for the European population from simulated data. As this new approach uses data simulated from the original data rather than the original data itself, difficulties surrounding transparency and publication of results are reduced.
Now, the next step to finalise such a database would be to broaden the approach to a larger proportion of the European population. These are exciting times as we move ever closer to the possibility of harmonised risk assessments at a pan-European level.