| Food Composition Data: A User's Perspective (1987) |
Food Composition Data Are Important
Food is a major component of man's environment. Data on what is actually in foods are critical to important activities of a great variety of individuals and groups including those involved with epidemiological research into disease patterns, government regulation formulation and enforcement, health assessment of individuals and populations, and national and international trade in foods.
Food Composition Data Are Currently Inadequate and Getting Worse
Current activities involved with the gathering and compiling of food composition data are for the most part isolated and often produce inaccessible, incompatible, inconsistent, and redundant information. Additionally, there are large gaps in the available data on what is in foods; data on many biologically important components of many commonly consumed foods simply do not exist. Moreover, very little information exists on the variability of food components and the attendant problems are almost totally neglected by data compilers and users.
Most food data bases are compiled for specific usages and often are unsuitable for other purposes. Thus, many of the data that do exist are difficult to find and use because of the limiting ways in which they are gathered, stored, and described. Interest in food components is expanding rapidly, as are the varieties of foods that are available and consumed. The need for access to more data on more foods is far outstripping the amount of data that are being made available.
There Is a Need for Co-ordinated Activity in the Field
The importance of food composition data and the relatively limited resources that are available necessitate a co-ordination of activity in the area. It is recommended that INFOODS pursue this goal by:
1. Serving as a focal point as it strives to set up a network of global communication between workers in the field.
2. Formulating guidelines for the various aspects of gathering, compiling, communicating, and using food composition data. This, of necessity, will include guidelines for methodologies for data gathering, data description, data storage and retrieval, data interchange, and data manipulation.
3. Pursuing the appropriate involvement of modern computer and information systems technology within the field of food composition data. Any such involvement must recognize that flexibility is a key element and that work in this area must be primarily directed towards providing the users with better tools.