February 19, 2010
WASHINGTONAgriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack unveiled the latest data on U.S. food availability per capita in a USDA database that researchers, policymakers, media and marketers use to gauge consumption of individual foods and food groups. The Food Availability Data System contains 100 years of data for many of the several hundred food commodities covered.
"At a time when the alarm has been clearly sounded on the epidemic of obesity in America, particularly among our children, the ability to track dietary trends is a crucial element of efforts to combat obesity and prevent its adverse health outcomes," Vilsack said. "The only source of long-term food consumption in the country is our Food Availability Data System."
USDA's Economic Research Service (ERS), which created and maintains the data system, updates it annually. Food availability is essentially the per capita amount of food in the U.S. food marketing system available for consumption. ERS economists include production and imports of the various foods, and exclude exports as well as farm and industrial uses, to arrive at an approximation of what Americans consume on average. Food availability includes all food-from grocery stores, restaurants, school cafeterias and other eating establishments.
"Food availability is a popular proxy for per capita food consumption," said Jean Buzby, one of the economists who maintain the database. "Looking at 100 years of American eating, we can see a reflection of social, economic, and technological developmentsincluding health concerns."
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