Monitoring Foods and Nutrients Sold and Consumed in the United States

Dynamics and Challenges

As food production and consumption change, researchers look to datasets to provide information on food in America. Several national datasets inform researchers, yet monitoring foods and nutrients in the sold and consumed food of Americans is a dynamic science.

This article assesses both public and commercial data sources currently available that monitor foods sold, purchased or consumed in the United States, including: store and consumer data; self-reported data on food purchase and consumption; food composition tables; and nutrition facts data. This article’s authors ask, “Given what is known about these data sources, how can the measures of the food bought or eaten and the measures of nutritional content of these foods be brought together?”

The authors posit that, despite research collaboration and transparency challenges, a new nutrient database is possible better reflecting nutrition’s changing environment, including:

  1. An average per day individual level dataset on consumption with extensive nutrition composition information for each food as reported, and
  2. daily, weekly, monthly or annual household level datasets on purchases and prices lined with basic nutrition information for each barcode.

The authors argue funding should support initiatives that bring many data collection systems together to answer important questions about food for researchers and policy-makers.