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Reliability and relative validity of a food frequency questionnaire to assess food group intakes in New Zealand adolescents

Jyh Eiin Wong12, Winsome R Parnell1, Katherine E Black1 and Paula ML Skidmore1*

Author affiliations

1 Department of Human Nutrition, University of Otago, Dunedin, 9054, New Zealand

2 School of Healthcare Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, 50300, Malaysia

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Citation and License

Nutrition Journal 2012, 11:65  doi:10.1186/1475-2891-11-65

Published: 5 September 2012



Due to the absence of a current and validated food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) for use in New Zealand adolescents, there is a need to develop one as a cost-effective way to assess adolescents’ food patterns. This study aims to examine the test-retest reliability and relative validity of the New Zealand Adolescent FFQ (NZAFFQ) to assess food group intake in adolescents aged 14 to 18 years.


A non-quantitative (without portion size), 72-item FFQ was developed and pretested. Fifty-two participants (aged 14.9 ± 0.8 years) completed the NZAFFQ twice within a two-week period for test-retest reliability. Forty-one participants (aged 15.1 ± 0.9 years) completed a four-day estimated food record (4DFR) in addition to the FFQs to enable assessment of validity. Spearman’s correlations and cross-classification analyses were used to examine relative validity while intra-class correlations were additionally used for test-retest reliability.


Weekly intakes were estimated for each food item and aggregated into 34 food groups. The median Spearman’s correlation coefficient (SCC) between FFQ administrations was 0.71. SCCs ranged from 0.46 for fruit juice or cordial to 0.87 for non-standard milk. The median intra-class correlation coefficient (ICC) between FFQ administrations was 0.69. The median SCC between food groups from the FFQ and the 4DFR was 0.40 with the highest SCC seen for standard milk (0.70). The exact agreement between the methods in ranking participants into thirds was highest for meat alternatives (78%), but lowest for red or yellow vegetables and potatoes (27%). The mean percent of participants misclassified into extreme thirds for food group intake was 12%.


Despite a small sample size, the NZAFFQ exhibited good to excellent short-term test-retest reliability and reasonable validity in ranking the majority of the food group intakes among adolescents aged 14 to 18 years. The comparability of the validity to that in the current literature suggests that the NZAFFQ may be used among adolescent New Zealanders to identify dietary patterns and rank them according to food group intake.

Food frequency questionnaire (FFQ); Validity; Reproducibility; Reliability; Adolescents; New Zealand