EPIC-Norfolk Food Frequency Questionnaire: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)



How do I acknowledge and reference the use of this program?


If you process your FFQ data using FETA, please cite the following reference:

Angela A Mulligan, Robert N Luben, Amit Bhaniani et al. A new tool for converting food frequency questionnaire data into nutrient and food group values: FETA research methods and availability. BMJ Open 2014;4:e004503 doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2013-004503.

Please acknowledge the EPIC-Norfolk Study in your publications as follows:

"We are grateful to the EPIC-Norfolk Study team for the use of the EPICFFQ software. EPIC-Norfolk is supported by programme grants from the Medical Research Council UK (G9502233, G0300128) and Cancer Research UK (C865/A2883)"



What are the licencing terms?

FETA is licenced under the General Public Licence , version 2 (GPL v.2) which is an Open Source licence. A copy of the licence can be seen here. There is a great deal of information available explaining the licence. The following pages help to explain the licence: GPL FAQ, GPL Explained By using this website and by submitting data for analysis you are also agreeing to the following terms and conditions:

i) You will make appropriate acknowledgement of the authors and funders of the FFQ programs in any publications using the analyzed data;

ii) You understand that the FFQ program uses data made available to the authors under the Open Government Licence and that data provided to you derives from this data.



Can I modify the EPIC-Norfolk FFQ?

You can modify it but the resultant FFQ will then need to be validated. The program has been designed to enable new foods and nutrient data to be easily added to it and explained in detail here.



What do I do if an FFQ has a lot of missing ticks in the main grid?

We recommend that FFQs having 10 or more missing ticks in the main grid are excluded since this level of missing data would lead to a considerable underestimate of intake.



Can I get information on intake of vitamin and mineral supplements?

This version of the FFQ does not provide intake data on supplements.



Does the program use information from all questions in the back of the FFQ?

No. Only questions 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 10 are currently used by the program as these have a direct effect on the nutrient intake.



What are the differences between FETA versus CAFÉ processing?

Breakfast cereals

In contrast to CAFÉ, which was only able to deal with a maximum of two breakfast cereals, FETA allows up to four cereal types to be recorded and portion weights are adjusted accordingly. Of the 24 633 participants who consumed breakfast cereal, 22 508 consumed either one or two cereals whereas 2 125 consumed either three or four breakfast cereals. The average portion size for all breakfast cereals is 30g, with the exception of muesli, which is 60g.

Some participants recorded porridge as one of their breakfast cereals. However, porridge consumption should be quantified in line 23 in Part 1 of the FFQ (see Figure 1). In the CAFÉ program, porridge recorded in Part 2 was processed, but the FETA program excludes any food codes relating to ‘porridge’ type items from the cereal look-up list.

Frying and baking fats

Occasionally, the free text entered for vegetable oil in Question 6 is the same as that entered for margarine in Question 7. In the CAFÉ system, only one food code could be assigned to unique free text. Therefore, if it was decided that ‘sunflower’ meant sunflower oil, (Question 6), when ‘sunflower’ was noted for the type of margarine used in baking, (Question 7), it would also have the food code of sunflower oil assigned to it. However, in the spreadsheet for FETA entry, improved layout and data entry ensures that the most appropriate food code is assigned.

Selection of the ‘none’ or ‘No’ box and default milk, cereal, and fat codes

Sometimes, the ‘None’ or ‘No’ box in part 2 is ticked but further information provided and/or assumptions made, result in the assigning of a default code. For example, if an individual records that they consume milk in Question 4, but tick the ‘None’ box in Question 3, a default milk code is assigned.

A number of EPIC-Norfolk participants ticked the ‘none’ box for baking (N=3 925) and frying (N=903) fats, though it was thought more likely that fat was used but the type was unknown. In FETA, if the ‘none’ box is ticked, the appropriate default fat is used in the absence of free text, while in the CAFÉ program, ‘none’ was assumed to mean no fat used.
The default baking and frying fats are taken from the Miscellaneous Foods supplement (19); these food codes used in the CAFÉ program have been changed in FETA to more appropriate codes. The default milk was calculated using 50% semi-skimmed milk, 25% whole milk and 25% skimmed milk (the default mapping used in CAFÉ was 50 % whole milk, 40% semi-skimmed milk and 10% skimmed milk).

These default codes are also applied by the program, as required, when specific food codes can not be assigned by text matching.


How do I install FETA?

Step1. Download the latest software version from our website somewhere easily accessible i.e. Desktop.

Step2. Install the FETA software and follow the instructions displayed during the installation process including the one prompting you to double-click the "Configure FETA" file from your desktop. While installing FETA software, please make a note of the default FETA location (all associated look-up files would also be saved here).

Step3. After installing FETA, use the screenshots available here while you test run sample data provided through FETA software.

Before you start working on your data, we recommend that you run sample data provided through FETA software just to make sure that the software has been installed correctly.

If you encounter any erors/issues please check our troubleshooting section.


Feta Troubleshooting


1. I'm not able to open the FETA output file.

Use .csv as file type when selecting the output file name as explained in screenshot no. 4.


2. My FETA is not able to locate the config file and process FFQ data. I'm getting the following error message:

Error: Config file lacks value key: 'nutrient_quantity'
Error: Nutrient Quantity Configuration file not listed in application config
Error: Config file missing C:\Users\username\AppData\Roaming\FETA\client_simple.conf


Option 1 - It seems that you have installed the FETA software correctly. As part of the installation process, a shortcut for a file is created on your desktop called: Configure FETA and you need to execute (double-click) this file before you can use FETA to process your data. Only after this, the required "feta.conf" or "client.conf" files are created, which are required for processing FFQ data. Also, it would help if you could check the FETA Screenshots while processing your FFQ data.

Option 2 -

1. un-install the FETA software.
2. delete any FETA related folders/files left in your system, including client.conf file.
3. download the latest software version from our website somewhere easily accessible i.e. Desktop
4. install the FETA software and follow the instructions displayed during the installation process including the one prompting you to double-click the "Configure FETA" file from your desktop
5. Follow the FETA Screenshots while processing the sample dataset and check if you are able to test FETA using the sample dataset provided with the software.


3. When I start FETA, the FETA screen disappears after a coule of seconds and I'm not able to use it.

It is possible that the "feta.conf" file from your previous/current FETA install has got corrupted and could still be installed somewhere on your system. It's most likely to be in the folder: C:/users/username/.. Could you please search for this file i.e. feta.conf and delete it and then you should be able to use FETA, without having to un-install or configure FETA again.


4. I'm able to run FETA but not able to understand the output headings i.e. nutrient_1, nutrient_2 etc. What do they mean?

You can get the description of the FETA nutrient/food-group headings from here.




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last updated: 20 October 2014