Use of the South African Food Composition Database System (SAFOODS) and its products in assessing dietary intake data: Part II

  • P Wolmarans
  • E Kunneke
  • R Laubscher


A number of dietary research methodologies are available for the collection of quantitative dietary intake data. The methods most often used in South Africa include the 24-hour dietary recall, the quantitative food frequency questionnaire, and the dietary intake record. To quantify dietary intake, the information typically required includes the energy and nutrient composition of foods commonly consumed in South Africa. The South African Food Composition Database System (SAFOODS) and its products, e.g. the printed tables and software program FoodFinder3, provide the researcher with the tools to convert food intake data into energy and nutrient(s) intake. FoodFinder3 can be used for the nutrient analysis of the data. It also enables the user to export the data to MS Excel for further analysis and for importing the data into other statistical packages. Coding for the type and quantity of food consumed is required however before the data can be electronically analysed. The Food Quantities Manual of the Medical Research Council provides the necessary information for the conversion of food intake data recorded in household measures into grams of food. To ensure that the quality of the dataset is high, several steps have to be undertaken before statistical analysis and reporting of the data can take place. Appropriate statistical methods are required for the analysis of the data as nutrient intake data are often skewed. Using a standardised protocol, validated questionnaires and the South African Food Composition Database (SAFOOD) for the analysis of dietary intake data could make the pooling of data from small scale or regional studies possible. This may impart an impression of energy and nutrient intake at the national level, and could, at least in part, compensate for the absence of regular national surveys.