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To develop authoritative food composition databases and state of the art methods to acquire, evaluate, compile and disseminate composition data on foods available in the United States.

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Uses of Data

The USDA has borne the fundamental responsibility of characterizing the nutrient content of the U.S. national food supply for over 115 years. The first food composition tables were published in 1891 by W.O. Atwater and C.D. Woods, who assayed the refuse, water, fat, protein, ash, and carbohydrate content of approximately 200 different foods.

Today, the National Nutrient Data Bank is a repository of information for up to 150 nutrients for nearly 9,000 foods.  It is made available in our principle database--the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference (SR)--on our Web site .  The data can be accessed online or downloaded for use on your PC.  Programs are available to look up the nutrient content of foods using a Windows PC.  Prior to 1992, most of this information was published in the form of Agriculture Handbook 8 (AH-8), which is no longer available in printed form.

Food Composition Products developed by NDL include the SR and various special interest databases.  These databases are the foundation of virtually all public and commercial nutrient databases used in the United States and a number of foreign countries. In addition, the data are used by food companies, trade associations, and research institutions.

USDA's food composition data are the numerical foundation of essentially all public and private work in the field of human nutrition. Within the Federal government, such efforts encompass metabolic and epidemiologic research, dietary treatment of disease, dietary guidance for healthy individuals, and planning and implementation of national nutrition policies. Nutrition monitoring activities and their results depend heavily on USDA's food composition data.

In the private sector, food composition data are used in dietary therapy of patients in hospitals and community settings, formal and self-directed nutrition education programs for adults and children, and preventive guidance for obstetric, pediatric, and geriatric populations. The data are essential to the calculation of school, hospital, nursing home, and other institutional menus.


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