The European Food Safety Authority’s 2010 scientific opinion on dietary reference values for total water intakes was partly based on observed intakes in population groups. Large variability was observed, and it is unlikely that these differences can be explained by differences in climate, activity level and/or culture. This suggests that there are uncertainties in the methodologies used to assess water intake from food and fluids, including all types of beverages. To determine current methods for recording and reporting total water, beverages and fluid intakes, twenty-one European countries were surveyed using an electronic questionnaire. In total, twelve countries responded and ten completed surveys were summarised. Countries reported that their survey was representative of the population in terms of age and socio-economic status. However, a variety of methods were used – that is, repeated 24-h recalls, estimated food diaries and FFQ. None of the methods were validated to assess water and fluid intakes. The methods used to record liquid foods – for example, soup and diluted drinks – were inconsistent. Clarity and consistency on definitions of categories of beverages to facilitate comparisons between countries are needed. Recommendations for a unified approach to surveying and quantifying intake of water from fluids and foods are proposed.
Although a global issue, fluid intake is extremely topical at the moment in Europe in light of EFSA’s initiatives to review their dietary exposure survey methodologies and gather new pan-European data. This activity aimed to establish a consensus on the inadequacy of current food intake methodologies to accurately record fluid and water intake. Further investigation and guidelines for a harmonised approach to surveying and quantifying water and fluid intake have been proposed, in order to improve fluid intake records in the future.
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For more information please visit the Food Intake Methodology Task Force webpage.