Combining Food Frequency and Survey Data to Quantify Long-Term Dietary Exposure: A Methyl Mercury Case Study

Nga L. Tran, Leila Barraj, Kim Smith, Annabelle Javier, Thomas A. Burke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Twenty-four-hour recall data from the Continuing Survey of Food Intake by Individuals (CSFII) are frequently used to estimate dietary exposure for risk assessment. Food frequency questionnaires are traditional instruments of epidemiological research; however, their application in dietary exposure and risk assessment has been limited. This article presents a probabilistic method of bridging the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) food frequency and the CSFII data to estimate longitudinal (usual) intake, using a case study of seafood mercury exposures for two population subgroups (females 16 to 49 years and children 1 to 5 years). Two hundred forty-nine CSFII food codes were mapped into 28 NHANES fish/shellfish categories. FDA and state/local seafood mercury data were used. A uniform distribution with minimum and maximum blood-diet ratios of 0.66 to 1.07 was assumed. A probabilistic assessment was conducted to estimate distributions of individual 30-day average daily fish/shellfish intakes, methyl mercury exposure, and blood levels. The upper percentile estimates of fish and shellfish intakes based on the 30-day daily averages were lower than those based on two- and three-day daily averages. These results support previous findings that distributions of "usual" intakes based on a small number of consumption days provide over-estimates in the upper percentiles. About 10% of the females (16 to 49 years) and children (1 to 5 years) may be exposed to mercury levels above the EPA's RfD. The predicted 75th and 90th percentile blood mercury levels for the females in the 16-to-49-year group were similar to those reported by NHANES. The predicted 90th percentile blood mercury levels for children in the 1-to-5-year subgroup was similar to NHANES and the 75th percentile estimates were slightly above the NHANES.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)19-30
Number of pages12
JournalRisk Analysis
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2004


  • Dietary exposure
  • Fish/shellfish methyl mercury
  • Food frequency
  • Probabilistic assessment
  • Usual intakes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Physiology (medical)


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