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Value Documentation

 Updated 2018-10-09

 Values and their metadata

In order to be able to compare and use data from different food composition tables and to avoid ambiguous data or data that can be misunderstood, it is important that values are clearly described, not only on which components the values concern, but also where the data come from, how they were sampled, analysed or derived, how many samples were used to produce the value, etc.
In older food composition tables, this information was given in the preface as explanation of the content in the tables. Today, such information is not enough and it is compulsory that every single datum is described with a range of metadata for the value documentation.

The first guidelines

Although food composition tables have been produced regularly for more than 125 years, it is not longer than about 50 years ago it became apparent that there were big differences between food composition tables and that data were so badly documented that guidelines were needed.

The very big challenges led a working party organised in 1970 by the group of European nutritionists to get the problems of sampling of foods, the analytical methods and their limits, and their documentation to be described. The result is in a short form clearly clearly presented by David A. T. Southgate in 'Guide Lines for the Preparation of Tables of Food Composition' from 1974.

In the following years it became more and more obvious that common guidelines for developing food composition tables and databases were necessary. Regional and international frameworks on food composition, like NORFOODS, INFOODS, and Eurofoods, were initiated.

During the 1980's and 1990's the INFOODS initiative published several publications on data documentation and data interchange like INFOODS Food Composition Data Interchange Handbook and Identification of Food Components for INFOODS Data Interchange, and in 1992 the first edition of Greenfield and Southgate's 'Food Composition Data - Production, Management and Use' was published with support from the FLAIR Eurofoods-Enfant project, INFOODS and CEC Agro-Industrial Research.

This work was followed up by the publication from COST Action 99 - Eurofoods with 'Recommendations for food composition database management and data interchange', published in 2000, and further enhanced in the EuroFIR project (2005-2010) with the 'Proposal for structure and detail of a EuroFIR standard on food composition data', which lays down the structure and format of food composition in detail.

The 2nd edition of Greenfield and Southgate's 'Food Composition Data - Production, Management was published by FAO/INFOODS in 2003. It is now the cuurent 'Bible' in food composition.

The EuroFIR project also published standardised thesauri to support in value documentation and further developed EuroFIR Web Services and an XML template for the EuroFIR Food Data Transport Package to be used in data interchange.
For more details on data interchange, see Data Interchange.

EuroFIR Value Documentation Thesauri

A set of standard vocabularies (thesauri) to be used in value documentation was defined within the COST Action 99/EURO-FOODS project in the Recommendations for data interchange and management and further amended in the EPIC data interchange project. Each thesaurus consists of a set of concepts that may be arranged within a hierarchy. A concept is represented by a main descriptor – a term representing the concept – and is generally further described with a scope note, additional information, synonyms and related terms.The thesauri were futher refined in the EuroFIR project.

The draft EuroFIR standard on food composition data make use of this series of thesauri (controlled vocabularies) in the description of foods, components, method types, analytical and calculation methods, units, etc. The thesauri follows international standards for multilingual thesauri, which secures international development and use of the thesauri.
All thesauri are available on the EuroFIR website ( and are updated regularly.

The first collection of EuroFIR thesauri was published in 2008. The thesauri collection comprise 8 thesauri of controlled and weldefined descriptors used to explain different properties of values and their bibliographic references. In 2016 the EuroFIR thesaurus, the EuroFIR Food Classification, will be published in the EuroFIR eThesaurus together with the 8 value documentation thesauri.

The EuroFIR thesauri currently held in the EuroFIR eThesaurus, an online thesaurus manager, are the 8 value description thesauri. The thesauri are available to the user in several formats from the EuroFIR website and in the table below designated by icons, and in different views/displays (for download of a thesaurus display, right-click the icon in the and select Save Target As...):

Thesaurus Purpose Version Published Systematic display Alpha-numerical display Alphabetical display XML
Acquisition Type Categories for the origin of a value 1.1 2012-02-22
Component Identification of the component or physico-chemical property 1.3 2012-05-28
Value Type Further describe the data values 1.1 2012-02-22
Unit Measure used for the amount of the component value 1.1 2012-02-22
Matrix Unit Amount of the matrix material ("per") 1.3 2012-09-10
Method Type General indication of the type of method used to obtain the associated value 1.1 2012-02-22
Method Indicator Method used to obtain a compositional value 1.3 2012-09-10
Systematic display (tree view); tab delimited file listing the thesaurus' descriptors systematically according to their place in the thesaurus hierarchy.
Alpha-numerical display; tab-delimited text file listing the thesaurus according to the alphanumerical descriptor code. The first line in the tab-delimited file is the root of the thesaurus and indicates the thesaurus name and version.
Alphabetical display; thesaurus descriptors and synonyms listed in alphabetical order for printed documentation.
Thesaurus in XML format; namespaces in the EuroFIR Food Data Transport Package, see Data Interchange.
Evaluation of Data Quality

It has always been a task of the food composition data compiler to provide data of good quality. Often this has been done with the compiler's best judgement. However in more recent years the has been several attempts to create more systematic procedures for the evaluation of food composition data. USDA (Holden et al., see references below) started in the 1990's with a series of articles concerning critical evaluation of published analytical data.
In EuroFIR, the USDA approach was found very labour intensive and not possible to carry our in a European context, but based on the experiences from USDA a EuroFIR task group defined a set of simplified rules to be used in the evaluation of data from scientific literature and laboratory reports.    



LanguaL™ 2017 published

The new release of LanguaL™ - version 2017 - published. See the LanguaL™ website.
New release of the Swedish food database

A new release of the Swedish food database published. See the Swedish National Food Administration website.
New release of the Danish Food Composition Database.

The Danish Food Composition Database, FRIDA version 3, has been published.
See the DTU National Food Institute website.
New release of the French Food Composition Table

The 2017 version of the French Food Composition Table is online.
See the ANSES-CIQUAL website.