4363.0.55.001 - Australian Health Survey: Users' Guide, 2011-13  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 09/05/2014   
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Contents >> Nutrition >> 24-hour Dietary Recall


24-hour recall data forms the main source of dietary data from the 2011-12 NNPAS. It provides quantifiable information on food, beverage and dietary supplement intakes for all respondents.

The 24-hour dietary recall questionnaire collected detailed information on all foods and beverages consumed on the day prior to interview, from midnight to midnight. Information collected included the time of consumption, the name of the eating occasion (e.g. breakfast), detailed food descriptions to allow for accurate food coding, and the amount eaten. The purpose of the 24-hour dietary data collection is to estimate total intake of food, beverages, food energy, nutrients and non-nutrient food components consumed by the Australian population, to assess dietary behaviours and the relationship between diet and health.

Where possible, at least 8 days after the first interview, respondents were contacted to participate in a second 24-hour dietary recall via telephone interview.

The method used in 2011-12 NNPAS was the Automated Multiple-Pass Method (AMPM) developed by the Agricultural Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)1. ABS with assistance from Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) adapted the AMPM instrument to reflect the Australian food supply. Step four was also modified (see Detail Phase below). The ABS gratefully acknowledges and thanks the Agricultural Research Service of the USDA for giving permission to adapt and use their Dietary Intake Data System including the AMPM for collecting dietary intake information as well as other processing systems and associated materials.

The AMPM is an automated questionnaire that guides the interviewer through a system designed to maximise respondents’ opportunities for remembering and reporting foods eaten in the previous 24 hours. Due to the large range of foods available, and the wide variation in the population's diet, the food recall instrument is, by necessity, a complex instrument. The instrument contains over 10,000 individual and combined foods to reflect the Australian food supply. Once a specific food or beverage was reported, systematic questions were asked to capture more precise information about the food, cooking methods and how much was consumed.


The interview was divided into five phases- quick list, forgotten foods, time and occasion, detail cycle, and final probe. The different phases encouraged respondents to think about their intake in different ways and from different perspectives.

Phase One: Quick list

Respondents provided a quick description of food and beverages consumed from midnight to midnight the previous day. These foods were matched to a look up list containing about 3000 foods. Respondents were uninterrupted during the quick list and there was no requirement to report food eaten in time sequence.

Phase Two: Forgotten foods

A series of questions were asked to prompt the respondent to remember anything omitted in the quick list and included questions on six specific food groups:

  • Beverages: water, coffee, tea, soft drinks, milk or juice
  • Other drinks: beer, wine, cocktails, or other drinks
  • Sweets: biscuits, lollies, ice cream, or other sweets
  • Snacks: chips, crackers, nuts, or other snack food
  • Fruit, vegetables or cheese
  • Bread or bread rolls

Phase Three: Time and occasion

Respondents were asked for the time they began eating or drinking each food as well as what the respondent would call each eating occasion. Occasions available for selection were:
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
  • Supper
  • Brunch
  • Morning Tea
  • Afternoon Tea
  • Snack
  • Drink/Beverage
  • Extended Consumption
  • Other, specify

If the respondent could not give a specific or approximate time, default times for occasions were used:

Morning tea10:00am
Afternoon tea3:00pm
Evening snack9:00pm

‘Extended consumption’ was used as an occasion when eating or drinking was spread indistinctly across the day and the total amount consumed was known to the respondent but not the particular times (e.g. a large bottle of water consumed throughout the day). Only the start time was recorded.
‘Other, specify’ was used as an occasion when the respondent did not find the listed options suitable. Interviewers typed the specified response in a blank field.

Phase four: Detail cycle

At this point respondents were asked for detail of the food and beverages reported, including the amount consumed. The instrument contained a longer and more detailed list of specific foods for use in the detail cycle to provide the best match to what the respondent reported.
The detailed list of foods (over 10,000) included individual and combined foods.
All foods in the instrument belonged to one of 102 food intake groups of broadly similar foods (e.g. breakfast cereals, sandwiches, pasta, milk) (Appendix 8: Food Intake Groups). The instrument prompted different questions about a food depending on what group it was in. Common types of detail captured by the instrument included the source (e.g. homemade), preparation (e.g. cooking method, type of fat used), brand names and anything added to the food. Example questions are given for different types of foods/beverages below.

Questions in the detailed phase for Cordial
QuestionResponse Example
What was the flavour of the cordial?Lemon
Was the cordial regular, diet or reduced sugar cordial?Diet or sugar free
Was the cordial prepared or syrup/powder only?Prepared
How was the cordial prepared? (Was it prepared according to label directions or something else?)Weaker than regular dilution
Did you add anything to the cordial?No
How much cordial did you actually drink?1 Litre

Questions in the detailed phase for Soup (homemade and restaurant)
QuestionResponse Example
What kind of soup was itChicken and Vegetable
Was it made from dry mix, packaged ready to eat, condensed, a home recipe, or something else?Homemade from basic ingredients
Did it have any meat, poultry, seafood or meat alternatives?Yes
What kind of meat poultry, seafood or meat alternative was it?Cubed Chicken
Did it have any vegetables or fresh herbs?Yes
What kind of vegetables or fresh herbs were in it?Carrot, spinach, onion, sweet potato
Did it have any grains, noodles or rice added?Yes
What kind was it?Barley
What type of sauce or liquid was it? (Was it a tomato based sauce, cream, water or something else?)Water
Did you add anything to the soup?No
How much did you actually eat?1 Bowl
How big was the bowl?B3
How full was the bowl?B

QuestionResponse Example
What kind of soup was itChicken and Vegetable
Was it made from dry mix, packaged ready to eat, condensed, a home recipe, or something else?Restaurant
Did you add anything to the soup?No
How much did you actually eat?1 Bowl
How big was the bowl?B3
How full was the bowl?B

Note that the ABS decided to remove collection of the food source (i.e. whether purchased at store, restaurant, bar, vending machine, etc.) from the USDA AMPM to replace it with specific questions related to the food preparation where relevant to the nutrient content. For example, in the cordial example above food source is not relevant and thus not asked. However, for the soup example, the response of being home-made leads to more detailed questions compared to a restaurant bought soup.

Phase five: Final probe

The final probe was a final opportunity for the respondent to remember any food or beverages previously forgotten.


Interviewers used a Food Model Booklet (available from the Downloads page of this publication) to assist respondents with describing the amount of food and beverages consumed. The booklet contained actual size photographs and drawings of:
  • Beverage containers, consisting of mugs and glasses of various shapes and sizes with lines indicating fill-levels
  • Food containers, consisting of bowls, take-away style containers and cans of various shapes and sizes. Lines indicating levels were drawn for respondents to refer to.
  • Mounds of various sizes. Smaller mounds were shown with knives (e.g. for butter) and larger mounds were shown on plates to assist the respondent.
  • Ruler guides. A 25cm ruler was provided, along with a number of shorter lines measured in fractions of an inch.
  • Rings, ranging in diameter from 10cm to 23cm, were shown on a plate.
  • A 16cm2 grid shown over a plate.
  • A wedge diagram, with lines for various lengths and angles.
  • Beef and chicken cuts, indicating levels of fat trimming from beef and types of chicken cuts.
  • Common chocolate bar sizes.

The photographs in the book were produced using Australian sourced beverage and food containers, to accurately reflect the size of containers respondents were likely to have used. The copy available from the Downloads page of this publication is for screen viewing purposes only. To obtain a printable file please contact the ABS.

It should be noted that the volume of breast milk consumed by breast-fed children cannot be estimated in the 24-hour dietary recall conducted for the 2011-12 NNPAS. As the population interviewed was aged 2 and above, exclusive breast-feeding was not reported. The energy and nutrient contribution of breast-milk to overall intake is assumed to be relatively small and thus breast milk consumption was removed from intakes in the small number of reported cases.


After the 24-hour dietary recall respondents were asked some additional questions about their intake the previous day including:
  • Were dietary supplements, such as vitamins and minerals consumed, and how much? A look up list containing over 10,000 dietary supplements registered for sale in Australia was provided by the Therapeutic Goods Administration. Respondents were encouraged to collect their supplements and report using the AUST-L numbers on the container to ensure accurate data collection.
  • What was the main source of drinking water?
    • Community/City water supply
    • Tank
    • Spring
    • Something else
  • Whether salt was added to food at the table or used in cooking, and whether the salt used was iodised?
  • Whether the amount of food consumed on the recall day was much more than usual, usual, or much less than usual?


All respondents were asked for follow-up contact phone details in order to conduct a second 24-hour recall over the phone at least 8 days later. Ideally, the second interview was conducted on a different day of the week, however, this was not always practical and interviews were scheduled to best meet the needs of the respondent with appointments often made a few days before the second 24-hour recall was conducted. A black and white version of the food model booklet was left with the respondent at the first interview to assist with the recall of food amounts during the subsequent phone interview.


Young children were encouraged to assist in answering the 24-hour dietary recall questions. See the Interviews section of Data collection for more information on proxy use in the 24-hour dietary recall module. A data item is available for respondents 6-17 years which identifies level of child/young person and proxy involvement in this topic.


1 Bliss, RM 2004, 'Researchers produce innovation in dietary recall' Agricultural Research 52(6):10-12, <http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/jun04/recall0604.pdf>, Last accessed 05/05/2014. Back

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