Socially-and culturally-patterned differences in food habits exist both between and within European populations. Daily individual food availability data, collected through the national household budget surveys (HBS) and harmonized in the context of the Data Food Networking (DAFNE) project, were used to assess disparities in food habits of seven European populations and to evaluate dietary changes within a 10-year interval. The availability of selected food items was further estimated according to the educational level of the household head and, based only on the Greek HBS data, according to quintiles of the household's food purchasing capacity. Results for overall food availability support the north-south differentiation in food habits. Generally, the availability of most food items, including foods such as vegetable fats, animal lipids and sugar products, has decreased over the 10 years. Households in which the head was in the higher education categories reported lower availability for most food items, with the exception of low-fat milk, fresh fruit, animal lipids and soft drinks; the latter showing a sharp increase even within southern European households. The household's food purchasing capacity can be used as an indicator of socio-economic status, with higher values being associated with lower status. Greek households of lower social class follow a healthier diet in terms of greater availability of vegetable oils, fresh vegetables, legumes, fish and seafood. Data from the DAFNE databank may serve as a tool for identifying and quantifying variation in food habits in Europe, as well as for providing information on the socio-economic determinants of food preferences.
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