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Charactenstics of a System for Measunng Food Consumption Patterns The following characteristics are considered by the Committee to be essen- tial to any system designed to measure food consumption patterns of indi- viduals and population groups. The system must be based on statistically valid and practical sampling procedures of the population or identified target population groups. It should have sufficient flexibility to be adapted to widely different target population groups, not only on a demographic basis, but also on the basis of patterns of food use. The system may have a number of subparts. The system should provide for adequate description and characteriza- tion of the target population groups on which data are obtained. The validity and reliability of the data obtained must be sufficient to meet the requirements of the proposed end use of the data. Analysis needs must be identified early in the course of the study. The collection, analysis, and reporting of data must be sufficiently rapid to provide timely information. Thus the system must have an efficient data reduction system including coding and editing. The system should provide data on usual and extreme intake patterns, i.e., assess the variability of food intake within the population groups in relation to potential consequences on nutrition and health status. The system should be capable of detecting and predicting trends, through ongoing sampling and by retrospective analysis. The system should lend itself to reliable subsampling for obtaining interim or trend data on specific population groups. 4

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Characteristics of a Systemfor Measuring Food Consumption Patterns 5 The system should be designed to meet the various data requirements of a broad variety of user groups. The system must be cost effective that is, the information obtained must be of sufficient value to justify the cost of obtaining it. The issues of privacy and confidentiality of data must be addressed in any system that collects information on individuals. If health and economic data are to be linked with dietary information, the issue is particularly critical. Appropriate safeguards for ensuring protection of privacy must be built into the system design at every stage. Not only is this a basic ethical concern, but concern for privacy will directly affect both subjects' willingness to respond and the validity of responses given. At the present time many agencies, institutions, and individuals are in- volved in studies to assess food consumption and nutritional and health status of individuals and population groups. However, lack of common sampling designs and sociodemographic data makes it difficult to integrate or properly evaluate data obtained from these different sources. Lack of standardized collection methods and internal quality control is often a limiting factor. In order to expand the use of collected data, strong consider- ation should be given to making original data from studies available to other investigators. The sharing of data may eliminate much duplication and result in more cost-effective use of available information.