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At last - food composition explained!

13 January 2010 British Nutrition Foundation

This new guide on food composition data explains the issues and pitfalls in sourcing and using data on food. Information on the composition of foods is vital for a wide range of people, including health professionals, regulators, caterers and those working in the food industry. For example, you can see this in the nutrition information provided on food packaging, and it is important in determining the recommendations about what we eat and drink given by government bodies.

‘Food composition explained’ which is published in the September issue of the journal Nutrition Bulletin is intended to help those new to the field to navigate the complexity surrounding data on our food.  This guide was completed on behalf of the EC funded Network of Excellence EuroFIR (European Food Information Resource), and is the seventh in a series of Synthesis Reports from the project, including others on ethnic foods, plant bioactives and health claims.

Susan Church, an independent public health nutritionist with nearly 20 years experience in working with food composition data, who wrote the guide said “Getting accurate data on our food is increasingly important in many different fields. However, it is a complex area and there are many issues to consider when working with information on the composition of foods. This guide aims to help new users of food composition data understand the important areas to be aware of when sourcing and using these data”.

The report begins by outlining the importance of food composition databases, and goes on to describe how they are produced, outlining the issues with each method of getting information on food composition. The considerations when using food composition data are then described, including dealing with missing values, different sources of data and calculating the nutrient content of composite dishes. Throughout the guide, practical examples and problems are highlighted to bring the subject to life.

Dr Peter Hollman, from the RIKILT Institute of Food Safety in the Netherlands, who runs training courses and e-learning modules on food composition, said “The area of food composition can be a daunting one for those new to the field. This is a very useful and practical guide for those just embarking on a career in nutrition or food science”

http://www.eurofir.org

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