National Single Day Food Consumption Report

Executive Summary

Understanding the high-risk food consumption patterns and food handling practices of Canadians is critical in reducing food-borne illness in Canada. In recent years, chronic diseases and their determinants have become a public health priority as global leaders realize the burden of these often preventable illnesses. Similarly, food safety issues have come to the forefront with attention to high-profile food-borne illness outbreaks both in Canada and abroad. As food consumption patterns change with changing societal factors and an increasingly diverse food supply, there has never been a greater need for reliable population-level data on food and nutrition to inform decisions and support and protect the health of Canadians.

Different dietary practices are associated with increased risk of food-borne illness and our ability to evaluate food consumption trends and assess risks associated with food-borne illness, is limited by lack of data on current eating habits, food consumption, and consumer food safety practices. Further, our ability to examine food consumption as an exposure/risk factor for food-borne illness and support the exposure comparison required to identify the source of illness during food-borne disease outbreak investigations has been limited by a lack of data on current eating habits in Canada.

Canadian-specific food consumption data would significantly enhance our ability to investigate and respond to food-borne disease outbreaks across all government levels. National data would also allow for an improved understanding of key food-borne disease exposures; assist with determining population exposure to specific high-risk and frequently consumed foods; inform retail components of surveillance programs; provide necessary data for risk assessments; and inform policy development and program implementation

In 2004, the Canadian Community Health Survey conducted an extensive module on food and nutrition in their 2.2 Cycle, as a joint initiative of Statistics Canada and Health Canada. This Nutrition Survey measured 24-hour dietary recall with a focus on nutrient intake. Although the survey collected data for nutritional purposes, it provided Canadian-specific data on food intake that could potentially fill the data gap identified from a food-borne illness and food safety perspective.

Food-borne disease epidemiologists at the Centre for Food-borne, Environmental and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases (CFEZID), PHAC, used the survey data to examine food consumption as an exposure/risk factor for food-borne illness and to explore the possibility of extrapolating 24-hour dietary recall data to consecutive, multiple day exposure periods. Advanced statistical methods were applied to the 24-hour dietary recall data to determine if it would be feasible to estimate food consumption over 3, 5 and 7 consecutive day periods. These are the exposure periods required for meaningful comparisons of foods consumed by the general population to those consumed by people experiencing food-borne illness. It was determined that single day food consumption could not be reliably extended to a longer time period.

The resulting report provides data on food consumed within a 24-hour period that can help to inform outbreak investigations, but may not be a sufficient comparator to identify the source of illness during outbreaks as data could not be extrapolated for consecutive, multiple day exposure periods.

Single day food consumption data is useful in describing overall trends as well as highlighting particular demographic characteristics of individuals consuming particular food items, within a 24-hour period. The data can provide an overview of commonly consumed foods, such as the most commonly consumed cheeses (in a 24-hour period), or provide insights into particular age groups that have a higher percentage of consuming a particular food item in a single day period (e.g. hot dogs consumed most frequently by children aged 4 to 13). The data can also describe locations where a food might generally be prepared (e.g. home vs. restaurant). As a result, these data may still be useful in helping to guide outbreak investigations, as well as informing food-borne disease surveillance programs, risk assessments, and policy and program development.

Overall, despite the limitations and recognizing that there is still a requirement for consecutive, multiple day food consumption data, this current food consumption report describes the daily consumption patterns and amounts of foods consumed by the Canadian population and their demographic distributions. These data provide an indication of what Canadians generally eat (within a 24-hour period), and help to better understand and describe food consumption trends in Canada.

Please contact us to obtain a copy of the full report. Email: entericsurveillance@phac-aspc.gc.ca.

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