EFSA has invited Member State institutions to submit tenders for data collection contracts as part of its EU Menu project. The latest call for tenders is the fourth since 2011. So far contracts have been awarded for national dietary surveys to be carried out using EFSA’s harmonised data collection methodology in 10 countries – France, Spain, the Netherlands, Estonia, Latvia, Portugal, Belgium, Cyprus, Greece and Romania.
Institutions whose tenders are successful will be awarded contracts to carry out national surveys using EFSA’s methodology. The surveys can cover: infants and children from three months to nine years old; adolescents and adults from 10 to 74 years old; or all age groups. The detailed requirements are described in the tender specifications.
The aim of the EU Menu project is to establish a European food consumption database of information gathered using harmonised methods and tools. The availability of detailed, comparable data will enable risk assessors to more accurately calculate the likelihood of exposure to hazardous substances in food across EU countries and regions. In particular, the availability of detailed data will reduce the use of assumptions and conservative estimates of risk in food safety assessments.
Many European countries carry out national dietary surveys, yielding information that is valuable for shaping national policies on nutrition and for monitoring dietary patterns. However, this data cannot be directly compared because of differences in collection methodology. Survey methodologies range from recalling intake from the previous day (24-hour recall) to keeping a record of the consumption of food and drinks over several days (dietary record). The level of detail and the quality of the data collected is also uneven, affected by differences in the survey design, the tools used to collect and measure the data, the clustering of age groups, and food description and categorisation systems.
By contrast, the EU Menu uses a harmonised approach, which is explained in detail in the EFSA guidance document, “ General principles for the collection of national food consumption data in the view of a pan-European dietary survey ”. Refinements to the guidance are described in the specification of the latest call for tenders. The guidance will be updated later in 2014.
The establishment of a harmonised pan-European food consumption database has been one of EFSA’s long-standing goals. The EU Menu is the latest evolution in a process that began in 2007 when EFSA started collecting data from national dietary surveys in all Member States for inclusion in its Concise European Food Consumption Database. This tool provided data on food consumption for adults according to broad categories (e.g. milk and dairy-based products) and subcategories (e.g. cheese) and was primarily used for exposure screening (identifying patterns or habits of consumption).
This was followed by the Comprehensive European Food Consumption Database, which provides more extensive and detailed information for a majority of EU countries in refined food categories and specific population groups, including children. The EU Menu project aims to further increase the quality and harmonisation of the data.