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The Main Entities

 Updated 2019-11-27

 The Main Entities in a traditional Food Data Collection

The traditional food data collection, the food composition table, presents the food composition data in tabular form. Data are typically presented with foods in the rows and components in the columns with the value corresponding to a specific food and component placed where their respective row and column meet.

The modified table metaphor

The table metaphor - simple representation of data in a food composition table (modified from [1]).

The basic structure of food composition data modelled on the metaphor of a food composition table is shown above. The upper left quadrant of the table represents information that describes the dataset as a whole, such as ownership and conditions of use.

The food and component quadrants may hold further desciptive information (e.g. units) on these items, but only rarely, the value holds any further information than the numerical value itself.

The table representation has its advantages - it is simple and easy to look up data, to compare data, and tha table can be printed. However, in the two-dimensional data representation it is difficult to indicate from where and how the values have been obtained, if data have been aggregated, if they are calculated, etc. This has led to the relational data models - the food composition database.

 The Main Entities in a modern Food Data Collection  -  the Eurofoods Model

In 2000, the Cost Action 99 - Eurofoods published its Recommendations for food composition database management and data interchange [1,2]. The recommendations are firmly founded on previous work carried out internationally by INFOODS and by national agencies and institutes as welll as on international standards.

The Eurofoods Recommendations propose a basic model of four main entities in a food data collection:

plus supporting entities and a series standardised vocabularies (thesauri). The figure below shows a simplified version of the representation of the main entities in the Eurofoods relational database model.

The Simple EuroFIR Database

The proposed model is sufficiently generic to handle food composition data at various levels of aggregation and with various levels of additional descriptive information. The Recommendations also include technical issues such as file formats.

 The EuroFIR Draft Standard

During the EuroFIR* project (2005-2010), the Eurofoods model was futher developed. A draft EuroFIR Standard Description [3] was published in 2007 together with a Technical Annex [4], which was updated in 2008.

The draft EuroFIR Standard includes method specification (an in-depth description of the analytical or calculation method used to derive the value) as a main (currently not mandatory) entity

and updates the supporting Standard Vocabularies significantly. The draft EuroFIR Standard's Technical Annex further describes the entities, their field structure and their attributes (mandatory/optional).

In short, the Eurofoods Recommendations and the draft EuroFIR Standard with their main entities, supporting entities and thesauri define the general data structure needed in a food composition data management system (a food composition database) as well as the structure needed for electronic data interchange.

The main entities and their inter-relations are further described in the following pages.

The draft EuroFIR Standard forms the basis for the EuroFIR eSearch database facility (now replaced by EuroFIR FoodEXplorer) and its interconnected national and specialized database systems.

*European Food Information Resource Consortium funded under the EU 6th Framework Food Quality and Safety thematic priority, contract FOOD-CT-2005-513944.

 CEN/TC 387 'Project Committee – Food data'

Based on the draft EuroFIR Standard proposal, the European Committee for Standardization, CEN, started in 2008 a new Project Committee, CEN/TC 387 “Project Committee – Food composition data”, with the purpose of creating an European Standard on food data.

The work of the CEN/TC 387 finalised its work in March 2012, agreed upon by a final vote by the CEN member countries in August 2012 and published as a European Standard, EN 16104:2012, Food data - Structure and interchange format, on 3 November 2012 (preview).

The European Standard specifies requirements on the structure and semantics of food datasets and of interchange of food data for various applications. Food data refers to information on various food properties and includes various steps in the generation and publication of such data, e.g. sampling, analysis, food description, food property and value description.

For further information on food composition data interchange, see Data Interchange.


[1] Schlotke F., Becker W., Ireland J., Møller A., Ovaskainen M.L., Monspart J., Unwin I.:
Recommendations for Food Composition Database Management and Interchange.
Report by the COST Action 99 – Eurofoods Working Group on Food Data Management and Interchange.
Report No. EUR 19538, European Commission, 2000.
[2] Schlotke F., Becker W., Ireland J., Møller A., Ovaskainen M.L., Monspart J., Unwin I.:
Eurofoods Recommendations for Food Composition Database Management and Interchange.
Journal of Food Composition and Analysis, 2000, 13, 709-744.
[3] Becker W., Unwin I., Ireland J., Møller A.:
Proposal for structure and detail of a EuroFIR standard on food composition data.
I: Description of the standard.
EuroFIR Technical Report - 2007-07-13.
[4] Becker W., Møller A., Ireland J., Roe M., Unwin I., Pakkala H.:
Proposal for structure and detail of a EuroFIR Standard on food composition data.
II. Technical Annex - Version 2008. EuroFIR Technical Report D1.8.19.
Danish Food Information 2008. ISBN 978-87-92125-10-1. ( pdf file, 4.5 MB formatted for duplex printing)
[5] European Standard 16104:2012:
Food data - Structure and interchange format.
European Standard approved by CEN on 3 November 2012 (preview).


First Albanian food composition tables (2022).

First Albanian food composition tables (2022) published with assistance from NPPC-VÚP in the frame of the Slovak Republic Official Development Support Programme.
Download here.
Swedish food composition database updated.

New version of the Swedish food composition database with updated nutritional values for several food groups and new foods and iodine values added. See the Swedish Food Agency's website.
First edition of the Kyrgyz Food Composition Table.

Kyrgyzstan has released their first national food composition table. For more information, see the EuroFIR website.
2021 Release of the New Zealand Food Composition Database.

The 2021 update of New Zealand food composition database (NZFCD) released online on 31st March 2022. For more information, see the EuroFIR website.