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Total Diet Study

Please note: The FDA will be updating this page with new information about our efforts to modernize the Total Diet Study, in the near future. The modernization efforts include data management, methods, data quality standards, and study design improvements. In October 2017, a pilot program was initiated to test a more robust, population-based sample collection procedure. These improvements will help the FDA to continue our decades long effort to study and better understand Americans’ dietary exposure to toxic and nutritional elements, pesticides, industrial chemicals, and radionuclides.

CFSAN/Office of Analytics and Outreach

The Total Diet Study (TDS) is an ongoing FDA program that monitors levels of about 800 contaminants and nutrients in the average U.S. diet; the number varies slightly from year to year. To conduct the study, we buy, prepare, and analyze about 280 kinds of foods and beverages from representative areas of the country, four times a year.

Using these data, we estimate how much of the contaminants and nutrients the entire U.S. population, some subpopulations, and each person consumes annually, on average. Because eating patterns may change over time, we update the list of foods to be analyzed about every 10 years; for example, we revise the list of foods to be tested, to account for trends in what consumers eat, and we use current data on how much of those foods consumers eat. FDA uses the TDS results in various ways; for example, along with other sources, they suggest potential areas of focus for our food-safety and nutrition programs.

Since it began in 1961, as a program to monitor for radioactive contamination of foods, the TDS has expanded to include pesticide residues, industrial and other toxic chemicals, and nutrient elements. An important aspect of the study is that we buy the foods from the same places that consumers do, and we prepare the foods as consumers typically would, to provide realistic estimates. The ongoing nature of the study enables us to track trends in the average American diet and inform the development of interventions to reduce or minimize risks, when needed.

How to Use This Site

Results of the TDS, from 1991 to the present, are available to the public in electronic form on this website. (Results prior to 1991 may be found in the publications listed on the publications page of this website.) Each section of the website explains a different aspect of the study, from a brief description of how the study is designed to a brief explanation of how the results are organized, including a link to zipped text files of the data.

If you have questions about the Total Diet Study, email TDS@fda.hhs.gov.

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