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FoodData Central FAQ

Tell Me More about FoodData Central

What is FoodData Central?

FoodData Central is an integrated data system that allows easy access to USDA’s existing food composition data and provides nutrient content information never before available. FoodData Central also provides access to sources of related agricultural, food, health, dietary supplement, and other information. Including all these data in one data system strengthens the ability of researchers, policymakers, and others to address vital nutrition and health issues.

Why has USDA launched FoodData Central?

The food supply is constantly changing and evolving, with new products and formulations continuously introduced into the marketplace and other products being removed. Moreover, ingredients and raw agricultural products are also constantly changing. This has implications for research, product development, dietary advice, and food policy.

These changes in the food supply and the growing variety of uses for food data have created an urgent 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. Future versions of FoodData Central will continue to respond to this need with expanded food and experimental data and additional functionality.

What data are included in FoodData Central?

FoodData Central includes five data types. Two of these types, Foundation Foods and Experimental Foods, provide data that have never been available previously. The three other types are SR Legacy, the Food and Nutrient Database for Dietary Studies, and the USDA Global Branded Food Products Database. Each of these data types is unique and was developed to meet specific needs. For example, the data in the Food and Nutrient Database for Dietary Studies make it possible for researchers to conduct enhanced analyses of dietary intakes reported in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

  • Foundation Foods is a new data type that 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. These data allow users to see the variability in the nutrient values provided. The enhanced clarity and transparency around the data on these foods represent the future of FoodData Central and the number of foods in this data type will grow over time.
  • Experimental Foods currently links to relevant agricultural research data from multiple sources, such as the Agricultural Collaborative Research Outcome 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.
  • SR Legacy is the final release of the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, which uses 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 analyses and calculations.
  • Food and Nutrient Database for Dietary Studies contains data on the nutrient values and weights for foods and beverages reported in the What We Eat in America dietary survey component of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
  • USDA Global Branded Food Products Database (Branded Foods) are data from a public-private partnership that provides values for nutrients in branded and private label foods that appear on the product label. Information in Branded Foods is received from food industry data providers, and USDA supports this data type by standardizing the presentation of the data.

FoodData Central also contains links to related external data, including:

  • The Dietary Supplement Ingredient Database (DSID), developed by USDA in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) and other federal agencies, provides estimated levels of ingredients in dietary supplement product categories commonly sold in the United States. These statistically predicted estimates may differ from labeled amounts and are based on chemical analysis of nationally representative products.
  • The Dietary Supplement Label Database (DSLD) contains information from the labels of approximately 76,000 dietary supplement products available in the U.S. marketplace. In addition to a list of the contents and other added ingredients (such as fillers, binders, and flavorings), the DSLD includes information such as directions for use, health-related claims, and cautions. This database is developed by NIH Office of Dietary Supplements and is hosted by the National Library of Medicine.
How are the nutrient values in FoodData Central derived?

The food composition values in FoodData Central are derived through a variety of analytic and computational approaches, using state-of-the-art methodologies and transparent presentation. For more information on how the values are derived for each data source, see Data Type Documentation.

Can I use FoodData Central to access the food composition databases I’ve used before?

Yes. FoodData Central is an easy-to-access system that incorporates SR Legacy, the Food and Nutrient Database for Dietary Studies, and the USDA Global Branded Food Products Database. Users can use FoodData Central’s filter function to tailor their searches to one or more of these data types. Downloads are available for each of these data types.

How is FoodData Central different from the existing USDA databases I have been using to access food composition data?

All of USDA’s major sources of food and nutrient data are now in one place, making them easy to access and use. FoodData Central’s Foundation Foods data also now provide expanded information on a growing number of foods, allowing users access to the data underlying the nutrient values. Additionally, FoodData Central provides links to relevant experimental data and other data sources, such as dietary supplement data.

By including these diverse types of data—food composition (FNDDS, Foundation Foods, and SR Legacy), branded food products (USDA Global Branded Food Products Database), dietary supplements, and experimental agricultural data—in one harmonized data system, FoodData Central contributes to the alignment of nutrient data with other key data systems, such as public health data, consumer data, sustainability and environmental data, and other nutrition and food databases. As a result, the ability of researchers, policymakers, and others to address vital nutrition and health issues can be enhanced.

How do the data in FoodData Central accommodate the rapidly and everchanging U.S. food supply?

The food supply is constantly changing and evolving, with new products and formulations continuously introduced into the marketplace and other products being removed. Moreover, ingredients and raw agricultural products are constantly changing. This has implications for research, product development, dietary advice, and food policy.

FoodData Central data represent a broad snapshot in time of the nutrients and other components found in a wide variety of foods and food products. The data reflect the foods and analytic and computational techniques that were available at the time the foods were sampled and are updated as new information becomes available.

Accessing the Data in FoodData Central

How can I access the data in FoodData Central?

The data can be accessed either through a search, using the search filter function, or through a download. See Download Data Types for more information.

Is it possible to download selected portions of the datasets?

Yes. You can download individual data types within FoodData Central, such as SR Legacy, the Food and Nutrient Database for Dietary Studies, or the USDA Global Branded Food Products Database. Downloads of selected portions of these data types will be available in future versions of FoodData Central.

Are all the features of the previous SR Legacy search program available?

Yes. The search results for SR Legacy foods provide most of the data that were provided previously through the USDA Food Composition Databases website. Data from the Special Interest Databases, which were available on that website, will be included in FoodData Central in the future.

Will FoodData Central be accessible through an application program interface (API)?

Yes. FoodData Central’s API provides application developers a mechanism to incorporate nutrient data into their applications or websites. See the API Guide for details on how to take full advantage of the API. Obtain the API with the API Key.

Is FoodData Central mobile friendly?

At this time, search results available for viewing on mobile devices include only nutrients by serving. Advanced filter features are not yet mobile-enabled and are available only in desktop view.

Can I access earlier releases of the Food and Nutrient Database for Dietary Studies (FNDDS) and Standard Reference (SR) and their related documentation on FoodData Central?

At the current time, FoodData Central offers the 2013-2014 release of FNDDS and the April 2018 release of SR Legacy. To access FNDDS 2015-2016 as well as earlier releases and their documentation, visit the Food Surveys Research Group (FSRG) website. In the future, the 2015-2016 and earlier releases of FNDDS will be available on FoodData Central. To access earlier releases of SR and their documentation, visit the Nutrient Data Laboratory website.

Using FoodData Central

What are some ways to use the results of FoodData Central data searches and downloads?

USDA has been the authoritative source of food composition data for more than a century, and the primary source of publicly available data on the nutrients and other components found in foods. Users of these data are diverse and include federal agencies, the food industry, health professionals, restaurants, software developers, academic research institutions, foreign governments and organizations, and consumers. By combining a robust mix of food and nutrient data in one system, FoodData Central can strengthen current uses of the data and facilitate new uses.

The data in FoodData Central can be used in a variety of ways, including:

  • Monitoring the health and nutritional status of the U.S. population;
  • Conducting research studies in a variety of academic, government, and non-government settings, including epidemiologic studies and clinical trials of diet-disease relationships, assessments of the nutritional status of communities, and economic studies on the impact of price on food and nutrient consumption;
  • Supporting the development of tools for research, such as specialized nutrition databases and dietary recall instruments;
  • Informing food and health policy, program, or regulatory action, such as food safety and food fortification policies, and Nutrition Facts Label regulations;
  • Developing commercial nutrient analysis software and applications for private sector purposes;
  • Providing information for nutrition-related news stories and other media products; and
  • Obtaining nutrient information for personal or professional purposes.
When will I see new data in FoodData Central?
New data are being continually added to FoodData Central, and values are updated as they become available. Each of the data types in FoodData Central provides specific date information. For more information, see Download Data Types.
Moving forward, does USDA plan to create or include new types of data in FoodData Central?
As new data from existing sources as well as new sources of data become available, they will be added to FoodData Central. Future versions of FoodData Central will include new entries for all data types except for SR Legacy and will provide additional functionality.