| Food Composition Data: A User's Perspective (1987) |
|Experiences with food composition data: the context|
|INFOODS: Background and current status|
Generation and recording of food component data
In addition to the ways in which information on food components is or might be handled, issues related to the availability and validity of the original, analytical data are critical as we further consider the ultimate nature of INFOODS. It is probably unnecessary to point out that the generation and recording of food composition data represents a difficult problem in comparison with, for example, data in physics and chemistry, where information about atomic structure and bond energies is determined under highly standardized and reproduceable conditions. In the context of foods, analyses are made on living or deteriorating material, and there is also variability between and within foods. Although this is not surprising, since biological variability is one of the major prerequisites of life, it does add to the complex task of achieving an orderly accumulation of composition data on foods consumed by people. Furthermore, the enormous variety of foods eaten represents a crucial problem with respect to the identification of foods and their systematic classification.
The precision found in chemistry and physics rests on the ability to repeat experiments under highly defined conditions in different laboratories. Comparable precision in the determination of food composition is not achievable, but further efforts must be made in this area to improve the quality of food component data. Attempts must be made to develop suitable reference, certified food matrices to permit the establishment of rigorous quality-control procedures for the analysis of foods both within and among laboratories.
In any event, data should be generated and presented according to accepted criteria or guidelines, with adequate descriptions of the procedures utilized, including concern for sampling and coding, as well as analytical chemistry. In order for progress to be made, careful consideration needs to be given to developing recommendations and criteria for reporting experimental data on food components. In this way, some of the experience of the evaluators of food component data could be transferred to those who generate new information, leading potentially to an upgrading of measurement practices.
To enhance the process of organizing food composition data into an international and consistent ensemble, it is essential that the quality of the archival data be indicated by the inclusion of information on methodology and sampling procedures. As Touloukian  points out, if this is done the task facing the critical analyst will be made more feasible and the quality of the data available to the user will be increased.