INFOODS: a world organization for more nutritious foods

INFOODS: a world organization for more nutritious foods

January 15, 2021

INFOODS: a world organization for more nutritious foods

With data centers in different regions of the world, INFOODS works to improve the quality and dissemination of food composition data, which can vary greatly from country to country.

Food composition data are absolutely fundamental in the field of nutrition and the agricultural sector should pay more attention to them, so that available foods are more nutritious. That is according to the website of INFOODS, the international network of nutrition specialists that aims to improve the quality, availability, reliability and use of data on the composition of foods, such as beverages and their ingredients.

INFOODS, the acronym of International Network of Food Data Systems, was established in 1984 on the recommendation of a group of 30 nutrition specialists who had met the previous year in Bellagio. The network has a well-organized structure. It consists of a world coordinator who oversees the activities and regional data centers with national members and a regional coordinator. INFOODS benefits from the presence of various supervisory bodies: it was set up under the patronage of the United Nations University (UNU) with the participation of the International Nutrition Foundation (INF), it is a task force of the International Union of Nutritional Sciences (IUNS), and FAO has been its global coordinator since 1999.

Mission of INFOODS

The mission is defined as follows: “Promotion of international participation and cooperation in the acquisition and dissemination of adequate and reliable data on the composition of foods, beverages and their ingredients, in forms appropriate to meet the needs of the various users (government agencies, nutrition scientists and educators, health and agriculture professionals, policy makers and planners, food producers/processors/retailers and consumers).”

Through numerous activities, INFOODS sets itself various objectives that include establishing international criteria, reviewing existing resources, promoting the production, acquisition and dissemination of new data, facilitating access, research, exchange and harmonization. And it does this, for example, by strengthening collaboration with other bodies, helping countries to compile and provide a database management system. Furthermore, it disseminates information through its website, a number of social media platforms and conferences.

Why is INFOODS needed? 

It is important to bear in mind that the nutrient content of food can vary significantly due to various factors, including food biodiversity, the country in question and its consumption habits, as well as the environment, genetics but also the processing that food undergoes. Precisely because of this variability, the different countries of the world have specific needs in terms of data, which however, as explained on the site, must follow very specific international standards to be considered reliable and comparable, and reflect eating habits and the consumption patterns of that country. This is not always the case. Some countries in fact have unsatisfactory data, while others lack their own databases (or tables) and therefore use free access ones or borrow those of neighboring countries, which creates a risk of errors. This is well understood by INFOODS, which admits that the production, but also the interpretation and use of data, requires a variety of skills. Adequate training is therefore considered useful, both in universities and in the organizations that train specialists. One example is the Food Composition Study Manual (Food Composition Data), a free course available on the FAO website.

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