|Compiling Data for Food Composition Data Bases (UNU, 1991, 68 pages)|
Public health nutrition activities; agricultural, nutritional, and epidemiological research; food industry and trade decisions; and government planning and policies concerning nutrition and agriculture all depend on accurate knowledge of what is in foods. Currently, these data are not always adequate for existing needs. Often they are incomplete, inaccurate, inconsistent, incompatible, or inaccessible. While there is much excellent information on food composition throughout the world, its ultimate utility could be increased by better communication and interchange of both information and ideas among countries.
INFOODS was formed in 1983, under a mandate of the United Nations University, to develop operational communication paths between the gatherers, the compilers, and the users of food composition data [70, 69]. As part of its activities, funded primarily by agencies of the United States Government (the National Cancer Institute, the Food and Drug Administration, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, and the Department of Agriculture), INFOODS was commissioned to prepare a series of guidelines on how to collect and analyse foods for nutrients and other substances, how to record and communicate food composition data, and how to use food composition data in research and practice. This document focuses on the issues involved in gathering together, and estimating where necessary, the specific data needed for a food composition table or data base. It should be useful to developers as well as users of food composition data bases, at both local and national levels.
A prime concern of INFOODS has been fostering formal and informal discussions to outline areas in which guidelines would be useful. Starting with the initial INFOODS meeting in Bellagio, Italy , and continuing through the initial regional meetings of EUROFOODS , ASIAFOODS , LATINFOODS , and OCEANIAFOODS  and annual meetings of the U.S. National Nutrient Databank Conference, there have been groups focusing on how one actually obtains and combines food composition data into a data base. In late 1986 an international meeting was held in Washington, D.C., to discuss the general problems of "missing data", i.e., how to deal with situations in which no analytic data exist. This meeting produced the general plan for the current document. A first draft of the document was circulated to those who had attended that meeting and to the various regional liaison groups; the current version incorporates their very helpful suggestions.