Cover Image
close this bookFood, Nutrition and Agriculture - 12 - Food Composition Data (FAO - FPND - FAO, 1994)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentEditorial
Open this folder and view contentsThe FAO food composition initiative
Open this folder and view contentsThe importance of the International Network of Food Data Systems (INFOODS)
Open this folder and view contentsSampling strategies to assure representative values in food composition data
Open this folder and view contentsFood composition databases: Current problems and solutions
Open this folder and view contentsImproving food composition data through training
Open this folder and view contentsFood composition information: the food industry’s perspective
View the documentBooks/Livres/Libros
View the documentNews/Nouvelles/Noticias
View the documentWhere to purchase FAO publications locally/Points de vente des publications de la FAO/Puntos de venta de publicaciones de la FAO


Food composition data: production, management and use

H. Greenfield and D.A.T. Southgate. 1992. London, Elsevier Applied Science. 243 pp. ISBN 1-85166-881-0.

This comprehensive and well-organized text makes a valuable contribution to its stated purpose of facilitating the development of international food composition databases. As the use of food composition data expands beyond traditional applications (for example, in nutritional status and dietary adequacy) into the increasingly important areas of food safety and trade, there is a critical need to coordinate database development and to promote consistent and valid analytical approaches. This publication brings together and organizes much of the basic information needed to select, analyse, compile, present and interpret food composition data. It also provides thoughtful commentary on the history and future of food composition databases as well as the problems associated with them.

The book is organized into 12 chapters, It contains six helpful appendixes that cover topics ranging from booklists to calculation procedures, as well as an extensive index. Subheadings within chapters help to guide the reader and make the text very manageable. There are numerous illustrations, flow charts and tables which quickly and easily convey complex ideas.

The first chapters provide general information on food composition data and databases, The topics covered include, for example, limitations of food composition data, objectives of programmes to compile data and approaches for determining users’ requirements. Specific guidance such as the listing of major elements in a food composition programme budget may be very helpful to those hot completely familiar with such programmes.

Other chapters deal with sampling strategies and the specific selection of foods and nutrients, Terminology is defined, variables are identified and approaches are described in considerable detail. The well-organized presentation will be especially helpful in promoting development of consistent and interchangeable data tables. The criteria for selecting nutrients are based on widely recognized approaches, and their clear and concise presentation is a valuable contribution. However, discussion of non-nutrient components such as additives, contaminants and natural toxicants is limited.

The single chapter on analytical methods contains a complete overview of methods for recognized nutrients and is extensively documented, Additional references will need to be consulted when chemical analysis is undertaken. Helpful summaries and general guidelines are provided. There are also short chapters on assuring quality of analytical data, conventions for expressing food composition data and quality considerations in the compilation of a database. The final chapters give guidelines for the use of food composition data and discuss current needs and future directions.

Food composition data: production, management and use is an important resource for those working in food composition and should be in the library of scientists, managers and policy-makers whose programmes include food composition considerations. Its basic principles are timeless. However, it is important that this text be updated periodically given the rapid changes in the science of food composition as well as in the uses of food composition data, In future editions of this book it would be beneficial to include more extensive discussion of the development and use of food composition databases to respond to newer areas of use such as nutrition labelling, trade and food safety.

Christine Lewis
Special Adviser in Nutrition,
Food and Nutrition Division

Souci, Fachmann and Kraut
Food composition and nutrition tables 1989/90
La composition des aliments - Tableaux des valeurs nutritives 1989/90
Die Zusammensetzung der Lebensmittel - Nwert - Tabellen 1989/90
Fifth edition

Deutsche Forschungsanstalt fensmittelchemie, ed. Compiled by H. Scherz and F. Senser. 1994. Stuttgart, Germany, Medpharm GmbH Scientific Publishers. ISBN 3-88763-027-0. 1 092 pp. Price DM 278,-.

These well-known food composition tables, founded by S.W. Souci, W. Fachmann and H, Kraut, are used by professionals and administrators in dietetic work and community nutrition activities as well as programme planning, industrial processing and research activities, This revision is a welcome update, containing 750 food items. Values are given for as many as 15 to 30 constituents per item, from a total list of 250 constituents. The book contains brief explanations of the methods and procedures used to generate or calculate the values. Apart from a useful chart showing the structure of food groups, with comments, the book omits any other nutrition information. The layout of the publication is quite clear, and each food item starts on a new page. All of the text is provided in German, English and French.

Important updates have been made. For example, more items have been included under cuts of meat, sausages and imported foods not native to Europe, Though the tables will meet a number of data needs in these areas, they are unlikely to provide all of the detail demanded by users.

Energy contents are calculated from the energy contributions made by the macronutrients, using the European Community (now European Union) directives on food identification and food component energy contents. Hence the revised edition provides data that, although collected in Germany, are comparable with those of other countries in Europe, Several important features are incorporated: b-carotene and other carotenes are separated, as are soluble, insoluble and total dietary fibre. Glutathione has been added since the previous edition, These features enhance the value of the tables.

The lack of description of sources of data Is disappointing. Users who use food composition tables to make decisions on food policy or nutrition interventions need to have details on origin, sampling and processing procedures in order to judge the extent to which the data represent the foods of interest to their work. Certainly users in industry are likely to demand more description of foods.

A related problem is the lack of definition in food names. For example, no designations of whether the item is raw or cooked, cooking procedure, recipe ingredients or proportions are given, Some of the single food items are difficult to identify for non-German users. These problems are especially troublesome for fish and for mixed and processed foods, where the names invite errors in identification even among users familiar with the German food market. As for constituent names, the target audience would be able to identify fatty acids more easily if these were listed with their carbon chain lengths and double bond positions in addition to their names.

Variation in constituent values is shown as the range of the highest and lowest values known for the item. Unfortunately, many of these fields are empty even when average values are reported. The ranges do provide important information on one aspect of data quality, but more could have been included to guide users.

The tables are very important for any professional or administrator who needs data on the composition of foods in the German market. At DM 278,- it is unlikely that the publication will be purchased for individual database users, unless they are developers of compilations. Nevertheless, these tables need to be part of any institutional collection where German and European food composition data are used in professional work, The information is also available as part of a computerized nutrient analysis programme at DM 3 460,-.

G.P. Sevenhuysen
Associate Professor,
Department of Foods and Nutrition,
University of Manitoba,
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Fish and fish products
Third supplement to the fifth edition of McCance and
Widdowson’s The Composition of Foods

B. Holland, J. Brown and D.H. Buss. 1993. Cambridge, UK, Royal Society of Chemistry. 135 pp. ISBN 0-85186-421-X.

This supplement to the fifth edition of The composition of foods is based on the United Kingdom Nutrient Databank which is being developed by the Royal Society of Chemistry and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, This document is the result of the work of many parties: chemists, laboratories, government and the food industries (producers, retail dealers, etc.), It will be useful to programmes promoting the consumption of fish because of their nutritional attributes. For example, some fish contain high amounts of minerals, vitamins and fatty acids.

Information about 79 different nutrients contained in fish is provided. Data on the composition of 308 types of fish and derived foodstuffs are given. The selection of the reported species has been determined by the eating habits and culinary practices common in the United Kingdom, In fact, a dozen cooking recipes are offered. The origin of each food is clearly indicated, and an index gives its name in English, Unfortunately, the authors have neglected to list the scientific name.

Frans Sizaret
Senior Officer,
Nutrition Planning,
Assessment and Evaluation Service

Rrtoire gral des aliments, Tome 3
Table de composition des fruits exotiques, fruits de cueillette d’Afrique

Lavoisier. 1993. ISBN 2-85206-428-6 (Rrtoire gral des aliments); ISBN 2-85206-912-1 (Tome 3). 207 pages.

A l’heure oConfnce internationale sur la nutrition a relance combat contre les carences en oligo-ments et autres avitaminoses et ourgit l’intt pour la composition chimique des aliments, le Rrtoire gral des aliments du Centre informatique sur la qualites aliments (CIQAC) et du Centre national d’des vrinaires et alimentaires (CNEVA) - produit en collaboration avec l’Institut frans de recherche scientifique pour le dloppement en cooption (ORSTOM) et l’Institut national de la recherche agronomique (INRA) - met a disposition des professionnels de la nutrition de preuses fiches de composition de 143 fruits exotiques et de leurs dv(jus et fruits ses). Il s’agit de fruits produits en Afrique, certains d bien connus dans les pays dlopp d’autres moins familiers car dits de «cueillette», qui sont identifipar leur nom scientifique, frans et anglais. Cet ouvrage donne leur valeur rgque, le pourcentage de partie comestible ainsi que les teneurs en eau, protes et lipides totaux, glucides disponibles, fibres, minux et vitamines pour 100 g de partie comestible.

Les teneurs en acides aminet gras, certains sucres, oligoments, acides organiques et aminbiogs sont partais indiqu. Pour chaque donn des caractstiques statistiques (antillon, moyenne ou mane, minimum et maximum) orientent utilement les personnes intss.

Ce livre aura de nombreux utilisateurs, depuis les spalistes d’enqus de consommation alimentaire jusqu’aux responsables de projets de lutte contre certaines carences, en passant par les diticiens et nutritionnistes chargd’borer des menus ou de recommander tel ou tel aliment. En effet, eux qui prt l’utilisation de capsules contre les carences en vitamines A, ce livre rappelle que l’on peut aussi utiliser, selon les circonstances et la graphie des lieux:

· de l’abricot sec (Prunus armeniaca L), qui apporte 4 710 µg d’ivalent b-carot pour 100g;

· de la mangue frae (Mangifera indica L.), avec 3 130 µg d’ivalent b-carot;

· ou m le fruit du n (Parkia spp,), avec 2 430 µg.

Que ceux qui veulent lutter contre les carences ferriprives n’oublient pas que certains fruits sont lement remarquables:

· la pulpe de baobab (Adansonia digitata L.), avec 7,4 mg de fer pour 100 g de partie comestible;

· l’abricot sec (5,2mg/100g);

· le fruit du n (3,6mg/100g);

· et la cerise du Sgal (Aphania senegalensis) (3,0 mg/100g).

En ce qui concerne la vitamine C, c’est la cerise des Antilles (Malpighia punicifolia), avec ses 1 864 mg pour 100 g, qui reste de trloin le fruit le plus intssant, devant la goyave (Psidium guajava L,), avec 243 mg, et la pulpe du baobab (256 mg) ou de citron (52 mg).

Frans Sizaret
Fonctionnaire principal,
Service de la planification, de l’analyse et de l’luation nutritionnelles

Quality assurance principles for analytical laboratories

F. M. Garfield. 1991. Arlington, Virginia, USA, Association of Official Analytical Chemists. 196 pp. ISBN 0-935584-46-3. Price US$63 in North America, US$69 outside North America.

This publication is useful as a management guide for establishing a quality assurance programme in chemical laboratories. It draws from principles, guidelines and procedures taken from laboratory-accrediting organizations, government regulations and generally accepted scientific practices. Since the function of a laboratory is to produce valid, accurate and reproducible results, it follows that a laboratory must operate not only under a system of written standard operating procedures (SOPs) but also under a planned quality assurance system which ensures that the quality control procedures are in fact being followed in the laboratory.

The publication discusses statistical applications for monitoring the quality of data produced in the laboratory; the role of laboratory management and staff in a quality assurance system; the need for equipment maintenance and calibration records; and the importance of strict accountability for chemicals, standards and culture media. It provides information on maintaining the integrity of samples and analytical records, and it includes a commentary on the use of computer systems for capturing and storing laboratory data. The book also contains useful information on sampling procedures, selection of analytical methodology and test equipment to minimize systematic errors. Also included are suggestions for carrying out intra- and interlaboratory proficiency testing and quality assurance audit procedures to provide documentary evidence of the accuracy and validity of test results.

Although the author states that “the importance of written procedures when a precise level of performance is required cannot be overemphasized”, it seems that he has blurred the distinction between quality assurance and quality control, When he speaks of the quality assurance manual in the chapter on quality assurance planning, he focuses too much on the quality assurance aspect and not enough on the quality control aspect. One cannot have a quality assurance programme without a system of quality control. i.e. written SOPs that must always be followed for common laboratory procedures such as the preparation, standardization and labelling of standard solutions. Thus, the compilation of SOPs in the quality assurance manual should have received more emphasis.

Nevertheless the book represents a comprehensive treatment of all the numerous considerations that must be addressed when planning a quality assurance programme for the laboratory.

Ernest L. Brisson

Edible wild plants of sub-Saharan Africa

C.R. Peters, E.M. O’Brien and R.B. Drummond. l992. Kew, UK, Royal Botanic Gardens. 239 pp. ISBN 0-947643-51-6.

This publication, subtitled “An annotated checklist, emphasizing the woodland and savanna floras of eastern and southern Africa, including the plants utilized for food by chimpanzees and baboons”, has been created as part of a long-term project involving the compilation of ecological information on the indigenous edible wild plants of sub-Saharan Africa. The research, supported by the University of Georgia, USA, and Oxford University, UK, constitutes an important contribution to a more systematic promotion of underexploited local foods as an element of sustainable household food security.

In Edible wild plants of sub-Saharan Africa, all the plants that the existing literature reports to be used as food have been identified as “edible”. Unfortunately, in its present state, this checklist is essentially a nomenclature of botanic names, For development institutions that lack botanical expertise, this book is of limited use. Furthermore, to be of use to nutritionists, such publications should concentrate on foods for human consumption.

In spite of its weaknesses, with several modifications this text could be useful for a wider audience, First, since non-specialists are likely to hear plants mentioned by their local names, it would be helpful if the different local names for a given plant species were registered. Also, a system for finding the scientific name from the local name should be built into the book. Second, the checklist does not provide information on the habitat and distribution of these plants, although the importance of this information is referred to in the introduction. Readers interested in a given geographical area or ecosystem should have a means of knowing what food species are likely to be available in their area, Third, when available, food preparation techniques and the food composition of these plants should be incorporated. It is likely, however, that this information is scarce and that retrieving indigenous knowledge in this field would require a specific research programme. Indeed, such a programme would be timely, as much of the indigenous information is at risk of being lost.

The title of this book may be misleading, since it gives the impression that the book is comprehensive and includes all edible food plants in sub-Saharan Africa. While the bibliography is most interesting, it reveals that the checklist draws essentially from English publications and that it emphasizes the woodland and savannah flora of eastern and southern Africa, It is likely that a similar work drawn from French, Portuguese and Spanish publications could provide a useful complement to this text and could fill in the gaps mentioned by the authors (e.g. Guineo-Congolian forest).

Florence Egal
Nutrition Officer,
Nutrition Programmes Service

Food fortification in developing countries

P. Nestel. 1993. Washington, DC, Office of Nutrition, Bureau of Research and Development, United States Agency for International Development. 47 pp.

This booklet describes current practices for adding vitamin A, iron, iodine and multinutrient premixes to foods. Dr Nestel discusses several countries’ practices in food fortification and describes the foods that are used to carry the nutrients.

The advantages and disadvantages of fortification are elaborated. For instance, difficulties can occur in attempts to reach the target population groups. Since foods must be centrally processed, distribution of the products adds to the cost of this strategy. In addition, legislation and quality control are necessary to ensure that the product satisfies the nutritional objectives.

Food fortification in developing countries makes the important point that monitoring and evaluation of fortification programmes are currently difficult, in part because of the lack of a defined methodology and backup laboratory facilities. Because of this difficulty, it is sometimes difficult to convince potential development assistance donors of the effectiveness of fortification.

The economic aspects and sustainability of food fortification are also covered in some detail. Examples of different legal approaches regarding fortification in developing countries are provided.

In the chapter entitled “Future directions”, Dr Nestel emphasizes the need for more dietary surveys and effective screening methods for identification of nutrient deficiencies, She notes the importance of food quality and standards in relation to food fortification, noting in particular the work and role of FAO.

This publication should prove useful to all those interested in food fortification, including nutritionists, food scientists, food manufacturers, administrators and policy-makers.

Ezzedine Boutrif
Senior Officer,
Food Quality and Standards Service

Tropical forests, people and food: biocultural interactions and applications to development

C.M. Hladik, A. Hladik, O.F. Linares, H. Pagezy, A. Semple and M. Hadley, eds. 1993. Man and the Biosphere Series, Vol. 13. Paris, Unesco/Parthenon Publishing Group. 852 pp. ISBN 1-85070-380-9.

This book is the outcome of an international scientific symposium held in Paris from 10 to 13 September 1991, The interdisciplinary symposium aimed to review the current understanding and recent advances with respect to potential food production, biological adaptations, socio-cultural background and feeding strategies of human populations in tropical forest environments and to identify possible applications of such knowledge to development projects and processes. The symposium was organized jointly by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) and the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) of France, with the technical and financial support of various institutions, including FAO.

Researchers who are interested in the interactions between biology and culture in relation to food and nutrition in the humid tropics are the intended primary audience for this work. However, most of the concepts developed and illustrated are widely applicable, and this publication should be considered an essential reference for policy-makers concerned with sustainable development in forested areas. Specific articles could prove quite useful also to development staff working in the study areas.

The sections entitled “Food production and nutritional value of wild and semi-cultivated species”, “Adaptive aspects of food consumption and energy expenditure” and “Cultural factors in food choices” are particularly relevant to nutritionists, This publication certainly contributes to filling the knowledge gap regarding foods from the forest. Therefore, wide usage of Tropical forests, people and food by development institutions would be highly desirable.

The book has the merit of presenting high-quality scientific information in a relatively accessible style. The different articles can be read independently, and the format adopted is user friendly, However, it is to be expected that the very size of this publication will discourage potential readers. Effective dissnation of relevant information to specific potential users will require an active effort by interested institutions. For example, they would need to prepare excerpts in simple language leading to clear recommendations. Bridging the communication gap between researchers and development staff is essential to the necessary exchange of information and the successful development of interdisciplinary approaches.

Florence Egal
Nutrition Officer,
Nutrition Programmes Service

African refugees: development aid and repatriation

H. Adelman and I. Sorenson, eds. 1994. Boulder, Colorado, USA, Westview Press/North York, Ontario, Canada, York Lanes Press. ISBN 0-8133-8460-5. Price US$49.95.

African refugees offers a good general overview of the complex issues surrounding the refugee problem. The book is divided into four parts covering legal issues, basic needs, integration and repatriation, and development.

In the single chapter in Part One, C.J. Bakwesegha advocates a point which is repeated throughout the book, that internally displaced populations are as deserving and in need of assistance as refugees who have migrated across an international border. Nearly 70 percent of displaced populations never leave their nation of origin but face conditions as harsh as those abroad. Bakwesegha reports that in 1990 there were over 5.5 million African refugees according the traditional definition (i.e. those who have left their own country), but there were 12 million Africans who were Internally displaced and not receiving assistance, The book justly bids donor agencies to assist all refugees regardless of their nationality. Later, in Part Three, T, Kuhlman states that laws denying legal or employee rights to refugees or restricting their travel should be amended.

The second part, entitled “ Basic needs and refugees”, examines extensively the history of refugees in the horn of Africa, specifically in the countries of Eritrea, Ethiopia and the Sudan. Case-studies effectively illustrate the causes of refugee flows, forms of settlement and the role of relief organizations, Sorenson gives a convincing portrayal of the effectiveness of the Eritrean Relief Association (ERA) in sustaining Eritrean refugees during the country’s many years of repression and war.

Part Three addresses the traditional solutions of integration and repatriation. The consensus among the authors is that assistance should be redirected towards “self-settled” refugees who live outside camps in the cities or villages, but ultimately, voluntary repatriation is the most cost-effective, long-term solution to refugee problems, Kuhlman shows that organized settlement schemes receive most of the aid but comprise only 25 percent of refugee populations.

The authors of Part Four collectively call for development programmes in place of the relief assistance normally granted refugees. This resounding theme corresponds to the objectives set forth by many organizations, including FAO, but neglects to discuss the magnitude of the task. Development demands long-term commitment by all parties involved. This is not always feasible in the impermanent context of refugee environments, and situations will arise that require donor agencies to be mobilized to provide relief and humanitarian assistance. In the final chapter. Gorman calls for further research to document accurately the number of refugees and their true impact on host countries.

Lora Iannotti
Associate Professional Officer,
Nutrition Planning, Assessment and Evaluation Service

Where did all the men go? Female-headed/female-supported households in cross-cultural perspective

J.P. Mencher and A. Okongwu, eds. 1993. Boulder, Colorado, USA, Westview Press. 282 pp. ISBN 0-8133-8540-7. Price US$38.

This book examines female-headed/female-supported households in a variety of local contexts and links them to wider economic, social and political processes. Case-studies from different regions of the world highlight the ways in which female-headed/female-supported households function, their diverse strategies for survival and the differences and similarities between these households and the more traditional male-headed/male-supported households. The sharp and steady increase in the number of female-headed households has stimulated a resurgence of interest in this subject on the part of social scientists and policy-makers. Cross-cultural analysis has resulted in the identification of four major aspects of headship: authority or power; decision-making; source of economic support; and in some instances, control over and possession of children in case of divorce or death, The crucial determinant of headship has been found to be the ability to control and dispose of the resources of the household, rather than the ability to produce these resources.

The authors’ stated aim is that the cross-cultural examination of female-headed/female-supported households presented in the book will enable researchers to explore the range of factors leading to the emergence of female-headed households; to examine the impact of variations in religious, ideological and cultural traditions in defining male, female and children’s roles and family organization; to examine the impact of socio-economic factors and the particular ways in which structures of inequality manifest themselves at a given time; to examine the critical role of class or differential access to income in a wide variety of societies and circumstances as they condition the life chances of children, women and even some of the men in these households; to examine the role of race and/or caste as it impinges on the lives of young women and men during their formative years; to look at differences in the role of the State in providing supplemental support for some female-headed/female-supported households; and to examine how each nation is integrated into the world economic system, which in turn influences the resources held by the State and made available to female-headed as well as male-headed households, and the possible strategies available to each for survival.

Most of the papers point to policy concerns and some possible solutions, All of the authors wonder which policies would provide women with viable choices of sustenance for themselves and for their kin, Specific emphasis is put on the urgent need for increased employment of women, especially those who are the main support of their households.

This publication could serve both scholars and policy-makers who are concerned with the increasing number of female-headed households in both developed and developing countries.

M.J. Mermillod
Senior Officer, Home Economics,
Division of Women and People’s Participation in Development