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USDA Updates Core Nutrient Database

By Rosalie Marion Bliss
August 15, 2002

The Agricultural Research Service today launched an updated version of its flagship database that reports nutrients in 6,220 food items. Named the "Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 15," or SR15 for short, it is the major authoritative source of food composition in the United States.

From cheese crackers to chicken patties, salsa to salmon, chances are you'll find it in SR15. Both generic and brand-name food items are included. Information is derived from U.S. Department of Agriculture research, qualified food industry sources, USDA-sponsored contracts and rigorously evaluated scientific literature.

A single food item's complete profile boasts 117 nutrient categories, which appear in columnar format. Newly developed algorithms are used to evaluate data for scientific accuracy, and quality control programs maximize data reliability.

Meat product categories in particular have been beefed up. Ground beef data were revamped to reflect new market trends and the demand for lower fat products. Nutritive profiles were added for a variety of emu, ostrich, deer, bison and elk products as well as for eight new beef cuts. Many brand-name, ready-to-eat breakfast cereals and candies were updated to reflect current names and nutrient values.

The method of reporting vitamin A equivalents changed from micrograms (mcg) of retinol equivalents to retinol activity equivalents, or RAEs. This change was made to adopt the same standard used by the National Academy of Sciences in the new Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) for vitamin A. By reporting RAEs, consumers and health care providers who want to compare their vitamin A intakes to the new DRIs will find those values in SR15.

The ARS Nutrient Data Laboratory in Beltsville, Md., provides electronic access to SR15 for free from its web site and for purchase on CD-ROM. To access SR15, go to:

ARS is USDA's chief scientific research agency.

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