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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Key Foods
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The Nutrient Data Laboratory is responsible for developing authoritative nutrient databases that contain a wide range of food composition values of the nation's food supply. This requires updating and revising the USDA Nutrient Database for Standard Reference (SR) and developing various special interest databases. However, with over 7,000 food items in SR and a complete nutrient profile costing approximately $2,000 for one sample, analyzing every food item for every nutrient and meeting all user requirements is impossible. Consequently, priorities must be determined. Procedures using food consumption data and nutrient values for developing the Key Foods list are explained. Key Foods have been identified as those food items that contribute up to 75% of any one nutrient to the dietary intake of the US population.  These Key Foods will be used to set priorities for nutrient analyses under the National Food and Nutrient Analysis Program.

A full description of the procedure for developing the Key Foods list is contained in the following article:

D. B. Haytowitz, P. R. Pehrsson, J. M. Holden. 2002. The Identification of Key Foods for Food Composition Research. J. Food Comp. Anal. 15(2):183-194.  Appendix A


Last Modified: 5/12/2014
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