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Eating Habits of Young Children Get Closer Look

By Judy McBride

December 16, 1997

Beginning this month, interviewers under contract to USDA's Agricultural Research Service will visit the households of about 5,000 infants and young children across the United States during the next year to gather data on the foods they ate.

This children's survey is an extension of the 1994-96 nationwide food survey, What We Eat In America, which covered all age groups. The new survey will cover children between birth and 10 years of age. The information will be combined with food intake data collected during the larger survey from about 5,700 children up to age 18.

The combined data will provide the Environmental Protection Agency with enough information on children's food intakes for adequately estimating their exposure to dietary pesticide residues, as required by federal legislation. It will also be useful to planners of other programs that deal with children's needs, such as food assistance and nutrition education.

The survey project director is Sharon Mickle of ARS’ Food Surveys Research Group in Riverdale, Md.

Interviewers will collect two days of food intake data as they did during the 1994-96 survey in more than 60 areas around country. They will ask a parent or care-giver to provide information on foods eaten by children under 6 years old during the previous 24 hours. For children 6 through 9 years, the child will be interviewed with adult help. Interviewers will visit the household again to gather the second day's data for the same child.

The new survey responds to the 1996 Food Quality Protection Act, which grew out of a 1993 National Academy of Sciences report. The NAS report expressed concern that too few young children were included in nationwide surveys to adequately estimate their exposure to pesticides in foods.

Scientific contact: Sharon Mickle, ARS Food Surveys Research Group, Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center at Riverdale, Md., phone (301) 734-5619, fax (301) 734-5496,