EU Menu: contracts awarded, guidance updated

Nine more national dietary surveys will be supported by EFSA as part of its EU Menu data collection project. The results of the latest call for tenders mean that 14 countries are now participating in the project.

Six countries – Austria, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Romania and Slovenia – successfully applied for new contracts in the current round, the outcome of which was finalised this month. Romania and Austria were awarded contracts to collect data on adults, Greece on children, and Slovenia, Hungary and Italy won contracts for both adults and children.

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, broadly comparable data will enable risk assessors to more accurately calculate the likelihood of exposure to hazardous substances in food across EU countries and regions.

Participants in the project collect data using EFSA’s harmonised methodology, guidance on which has now been updated following analysis of the results of the EU Menu pilot schemes and related methodological projects. The updated guidance – which includes additional material on issues such as organising and planning surveys, sampling methods, best recruitment practices, and reporting – was endorsed at last month’s annual meeting of EFSA’s Network on Food Consumption Data.

Dr. Liisa Valsta, who has been leading the EU Menu project for the past five years, said: “The new round of contracts and the updated guidance represent two big steps forward for this project. The establishment of a harmonised pan-European food consumption database has been one of EFSA’s long-standing goals, and each year we get a little closer to realising our ambition. 

“It is particularly gratifying that more and more Member States are appreciating the importance of the EU Menu and are getting on board. We are also seeing a lot more attention to detail and a generally higher quality in the tenders, which suggests that the hard work we have put into explaining the process is paying off.”

The EU Menu is the latest evolution in a process that was initiated by EFSA’s Scientific Committee in 2005. In 2007 EFSA started collecting data from national dietary surveys for inclusion in its Concise European Food Consumption Database. 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. 

The EU Menu project aims to further increase the quality and harmonisation of the data, covering all age groups from three months to 74 years. EFSA awards a number of data collection contracts for the project each year.