Surveys 'cornerstone' of nutrition monitoring

National nutritional surveys are the "cornerstone of food and nutrition monitoring" in New Zealand, but thought is needed about how the running of future surveys can be ensured, University of Otago Associate Prof Winsome Parnell said.

Prof Parnell, of the university human nutrition department, gave a talk yesterday on "national nutrition surveys: where to from here?"during the university's Consumer and Applied Sciences three-day centennial conference.

In her talk, she reflected on the history of national nutrition surveys, which had been conducted in this country since 1977, and the important role which Otago University, and its human nutrition department, had played in helping run them.

The Ministry of Health had also contracted the university to conduct the 2008-09 New Zealand Adult Nutrition Survey and that report was due for release in June.

She noted that previous surveys had shown some reduction in the percentage of energy that adults gained from dietary fat, but concerns about overeating persisted.

There was still a need to reduce fat, sucrose and alcohol consumption to counteract obesity concerns.

Such national nutrition surveys were of a high standard internationally and played a crucial role in food monitoring.

However, current Ministry of Health plans for "rolling health surveys" did not include the previous practice of collecting material involving "recalls" of survey participants' diet over the previous 24 hours in a way which provided "the necessary detail about food consumption" to support high quality nutritional monitoring.

Given overall funding restrictions, consideration could be given to maintaining future high-quality survey data and 24-hour monitoring through a funding partnership involving Government, community health organisations and some food industry involvement, she said.

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