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FoodData Central About Us

Learn More About FoodData Central

The food supply, and the scientific understanding of relationships between dietary intakes and health, have evolved over the years. USDA’s food composition data resources also have evolved to meet the needs of diverse users, including researchers, policy makers, nutrition professionals, and product developers.

In recent years, the rapidly escalating pace of change in the food supply and the growing variety of uses for food and nutrient data have greatly enhanced the need for transparent and easily accessible information about the nutrients and other components of foods and food products. FoodData Central is USDA’s response to this need.

This integrated data system contains—in one place—five distinct types of data containing information on food and nutrient profiles, each with a unique purpose. Two of the data types—Foundation Foods and Experimental Foods—represent “a bridge to the future” in food and nutrient composition. They provide data that have never previously been available:

  • Foundation Foods includes nutrient values as well as extensive underlying metadata on commercially available foods, such as the number of samples, sampling location, date of collection, analytical approaches used, and if appropriate, agricultural information such as genotype and production practices. With their enhanced clarity and transparency, Foundation Foods data can provide valuable insights into the many factors that influence variability in nutrient profiles. The number of foods in Foundation Foods will grow over time.
  • Experimental Foods currently links to relevant agricultural research data from multiple sources, such as the Agricultural Collaborative Research Outcomes System (AgCROS). In the next version of FoodData Central, this data type will include information from multiple sources about foods that have been produced under experimental conditions and are not commercially available. The agricultural data in Experimental Foods will allow users to examine a range of factors, such as geography and agricultural practices used, that may affect the nutritional profiles of foods and resulting dietary intake.

The other three data types are well-established and familiar to many types of users:

  • Standard Reference has been the primary food composition data type in the United States for decades. Using earlier approaches to determining nutrient profiles of foods in the marketplace, it provides a comprehensive list of values for nutrients and food components that are derived from calculations and analyses. This data type has provided the values for most other public and private food composition databases and has supported a wide range of public policy initiatives, research studies, and diet planning and education activities. SR Legacy, released in April 2018, is the final release of this data type.
  • Food and Nutrient Database for Dietary Studies provides nutrient values for the foods and beverages reported in What We Eat in America, the dietary intake component of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Food and Nutrient Database for Dietary Studies data facilitate analyses of dietary intakes reported in NHANES as well as many other dietary research studies.
  • The USDA Global Branded Food Products Database are data from a public-private partnership whose goal is to enhance the open sharing of nutrient data that appear on branded and private label foods and are provided by the food industry. Members of this partnership are:
    • ARS LogoAgricultural Research Service (ARS), USDA
    • ILSI logoInternational Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) North America
    • GS1 US logoGS1 US
    • 1WorldSync logo1WorldSync
    • Label Insight logoLabel Insight
    • UMD logoUniversity of Maryland, Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition

Information in Branded Foods is received from food industry data providers, and USDA supports Branded Foods by standardizing the presentation of the data. This data type is used in consumer education, research studies, and food label regulatory efforts.

For more information about FoodData Central, go to the FAQ page.