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close this bookCompiling Data for Food Composition Data Bases (UNU, 1991, 68 pages)
View the documentAcknowledgements
View the documentExecutive summary
View the documentPreface
Open this folder and view contentsPart I the data base
Open this folder and view contentsPart II Gathering the data
View the documentReferences
View the documentOther Titles in this Series Food Composition Data

Executive summary

Data on the composition of foods are essential for nutrition research, product development, nutrition education, trade of foods and food products between and within countries, and development of nutrition and agricultural policies by government agencies. Food composition data have been compiled into many data bases throughout the world. As the uses of those data increase, a larger number of individuals and organizations become involved in their compilation, and thus the need for guidelines on their gathering, formatting, and documentation increases. This document describes and presents recommendations for the procedures involved with compiling the values for food composition data bases and tables. Specifically addressed are the five major ways to obtain data on the nutrient content of foods:

  • direct analysis based on analytical measurements,
  • calculated as representative values (e.g., weighted means of several samples),
  • gathered from other sources (e.g., taken from other tables or the literature),
  • estimated from similar foods (e.g., substitution of data),
  • estimated from ingredients (e.g., recipe calculations).

Two main themes of this manual are (1) the importance of careful definition of the data base, in terms of its ultimate use, before the actual process of compilation begins, and (2) the importance of careful documentation of the procedures used to obtain the data. The data gathering, manipulation, and estimation techniques associated with each data point in a data base should be clearly identified and described. In addition to fostering compatibility and consistency between data bases, adequate documentation will also give the users an awareness of the extent and limitations of the data and a clear indication of necessary and potential improvements to the data base.

Compiling a data base is a complex endeavour requiring major effort; it is the goal of this document to provide guidelines to data base compilers to assist them in focusing their efforts, in the hope that future data bases will be more compatible, more consistent, and more useful to a wider audience.

William M. Rand is Professor of Biostatistics in the Department of Community Health of the Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

Jean A. T. Pennington is Associate Director for Dietary Surveillance in the Division of Nutrition, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Food and Drug Administration, Washington, D.C., USA.

Suzanne P. Murphy is Assistant Research Nutritionist in the Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of California, Berkeley, California, USA.

John C. Klensin is Principal Research Scientist in the Department of Architecture, Project Coordinator for INFOODS, and Director of the INFOODS Secretariat at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

The technical committee for this document consisted of the above and: G. Beecher, Nutrient Composition Laboratory, Department of Agriculture, USA L. Bergström, National Food Administration, Sweden I. M. Buzzard, Nutrition Coordinating Center, University of Minnesota, USA D. Feskanich, INFOODS Secretariat, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA F. N. Hepburn, Human Nutrition Information Service, Department of Agriculture, USA J. M. Holden, Nutrient Composition Laboratory, Department of Agriculture, USA L. W. Hoover, University of Missouri, USA B. Perloff, Human Nutrition Information Service, Department of Agriculture, USA G. J. Petot, Case Western Reserve University, USA W. Polacchi, Italy N. Rawson, Campbell Soup Company, USA W. A. van Staveren, Agricultural University, the Netherlands K. Yasumoto, Kyoto University, Japan