To investigate the feasibility of using commercially available data on household food consumption to carry out food and nutritional surveillance.
Taylor Nelson Sofres (TNS) collects information on foods brought home for consumption among a representative quota sample of the British population. In total, 33 177 households and 105 667 individuals provided data between 1991 and 2000. These were used to investigate sociodemographic, geographical and temporal trends in purchase patterns of the main macronutrients and four groups of marker products.
Sociodemographic characteristics of the TNS sample were broadly consistent with those of the British population. Estimated energy intakes were slightly low (1667±715 kcal) in comparison with other national data. However, percentage energy contributions were consistent with national trends: e.g. consumption of alcohol in the home increased between 1991 and 2000 with higher intakes among more affluent households, while fat intakes decreased slightly over the same period. Significant temporal, geographic and socio-economic trends were found for all nutrients (P < 0.0001). Intakes of marker products were sparse (purchased by <4% of households), but significant variations were detected in the proportion of households purchasing some or all of the marker products across temporal, geographic and socio–economic strata.
A prospective nutrient surveillance system could be used to trace consumption patterns of foods or nutrients to inform nutritional surveillance. However, existing data sources would require a number of modifications to increase their suitability for such a project. Increasing surveillance to consider ingredients would require the development of a central coding system, with electronically linked barcode, ingredient and nutrient information.
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