The National Food Consumption Survey (NFCS): South Africa, 1999
Objective: The aim of the National Food Consumption Survey (NFCS) in South Africa was to determine the nutrient intakes and anthropometric status of children (1-9 years old), as well as factors that influence their dietary intake. Design: This was a cross-sectional survey of a nationally representative sample of all children aged 1-9 years in South Africa. A nationally representative sample with provincial representation was selected using 1996 Census information. Subjects: Of the 3120 children who were originally sampled data were obtained from 2894, a response rate of 93%. Methods: The sociodemographic status of each household was assessed by a questionnaire. Dietary intake was assessed by means of a 24-hour recall and a food-frequency questionnaire from the caregivers of the children. Food purchasing practices were determined by means of a food procurement questionnaire. Hunger was assessed by a modified hunger scale questionnaire. Nutritional status was determined by means of anthropometric measurements: height, weight, head circumference and arm circumference. Results: At the national level, stunting (height-for-age below minus two standard deviations (< -2SD) from the reference median) was by far the most common nutritional disorder, affecting nearly one in five children. The children least affected (17%) were those living in urban areas. Even with regard to the latter, however, children living in informal urban areas were more severely affected (20%) compared with those living in formal urban areas (16%). A similar pattern emerged for the prevalence of underweight (weight-for-age < -2SD), with one in 10 children being affected at the national level. Furthermore, one in 10 (13%) and one in four (26%) children aged 1-3 years had an energy intake less than half and less than two-thirds of their daily energy needs, respectively. For South African children as a whole, the intakes of energy, calcium, iron, zinc, selenium, vitamins A, D, C and E, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6 and folic acid were below two-thirds of the Recommended Dietary Allowances. At the national level, data from the 24-hour recalls indicated that the most commonly consumed food items were maize, sugar, tea, whole milk and brown bread. For South African children overall, one in two households (52%) experienced hunger, one in four (23%) were at risk of hunger and only one in four households (25%) appeared food-secure. Conclusion: The NFCS indicated that a large majority of households were food-insecure and that energy deficit and micronutrient deficiencies were common, resulting in a high prevalence of stunting. These results were used as motivation for the introduction of mandatory fortification in South Africa. © The Authors 2005.