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Variation in the food composition data
  • You may see anomalies when comparing data on this resource with similar data. When using food composition tables it is important to recognise the limitations associated with their development. The limitations include:

    • Country specific foods and analysis. Diets vary throughout the world and it is important to use tables that are designed for a specific country. If this isn’t available a neighbouring country that has a similar diet, food cultivation and cooking methods is sometimes used.
    • Representativeness of the food samples analysed. This can vary due to many factors including plant or animal species, cultivation methods and location, season grown and harvested, food manufacture methods, storage and cooking methods.
    • Analysis method. The method used will influence the final data e.g. the Englyst or AOAC enzymatic-gravimetric methods can measure fibre content.
    • Analytical errors. Analysis is usually well controlled for quality but errors may occur.
    • Bioavailability of a nutrient. This will depend on the soil that a food is grown in e.g. selenium, its chemical form, factors that enhance (e.g. vitamin C enhances non-haem iron) or inhibit absorption (e.g. phytates in cereals can inhibit calcium absorption, physiological factors, food fortification.
    • Water content. This can vary depends on factors including length and type of storage.


    1. European Food Information Resource — “Its purpose is to develop, publish and exploit food composition information, and promote international cooperation and harmonisation of standards to improve data quality, storage and access.”
    2. H Greenfield & DAT Southgateo (2003) Food composition data: Production, Management and use. 2nd Edition.
    3. Food Databanks National Capability (FDNC) Institute of Food Research. FDNC is responsible for maintaining and updating the database and support information for nutrient composition of UK food.
    4. E Landais & M Holdsworth (2014), Food composition tables and databases. In Manual of Dietetic Practice 5th Edition. J Gandy (Editor) Wiley Blackwell, Oxford UK.

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