Skip to main content
ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BHNRC) » Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center » Nutrient Data Laboratory » Research » Research Project #426560

Research Project: USDA National Nutrient Databank for Food Composition

Location: Nutrient Data Laboratory

2014 Annual Report

The mission of the Nutrient Data Laboratory is "To develop authoritative food composition databases and state of the art methods to acquire, evaluate, compile, and disseminate composition data on foods and dietary supplements available in the United States." The following three objectives and nine sub-objectives provide the infrastructure for completing planned research over the next five years and the guiding principles for accomplishing the research with a clear, scientific focus. Objective 1. Develop and expand the USDA-ARS food composition databases to represent the dynamics of the U.S. food supply, including increased use of commercially packaged foods, restaurant foods, school foods, and ethnic foods. Sub-Objective 1.A. Update the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference (SR) to represent the dynamics of the current U.S. food supply, including increased availability and variety of commercially packaged, restaurant, school, and ethnic foods. Sub-Objective 1.B. Expand and update existing food yield and nutrient retention factor tables to reflect current food preparation methods and food products. Sub-Objective 1.C. Provide nutrient composition data for use in the national survey, What We Eat In America (WWEIA), NHANES. Sub-Objective 1.D. Monitor sodium and related nutrients in commercially processed and restaurant foods in the U.S. food supply. Objective 2. Develop authoritative food composition databases for non-nutritive components that may promote health; examples include isothiocyanates and other sulfur-containing compounds. Expand existing databases, including flavonoids, to include more foods, variability estimates, and other information (cultivar, weather, growing conditions, etc.), which impact the nutrient values. Sub-Objective 2.A. Expand and update accurate representative values for a number of bioactive compounds in raw, processed, and prepared foods in different Special Interest Databases (SID). Sub-Objective 2.B. Develop a new Special Interest Database (SID) on the content of sulfur-containing bioactive compounds in selected foods, with special emphasis on variability and factors, e.g., cultivar, location, and growing conditions, which potentially could influence variability. Sub-Objective 2.C. Determine the effect of various preparation methods on the content of various bioactive compounds in selected foods. Objective 3. Identify, evaluate, and develop new methods for the acquisition, evaluation, compilation, and dissemination of food composition data from diverse sources through modernization of existing and development of new, robust information technology. Sub-Objective 3.A. Provide easy-to-use, web-based mechanisms for data submission. Sub-Objective 3.B. Enhance dissemination routines in the National Nutrient Databank System (NDBS) via automated methods to expand the types of data formats available on NDL’s web site.

Multiple methods for obtaining data will be used (e.g., nationwide product sampling and analysis, collaborations [food manufacturers, agricultural scientists], and publicly available information). The National Food and Nutrient Analysis Program (NFNAP) generates high-quality, analytical data for U.S. foods and includes a rigorous scientific process to develop nationally representative estimates of means and variability, under USDA analytical oversight. The 5 aims are: a) identify/prioritize foods/nutrients for analysis; b) devise/implement nationally based sampling plan(s); c) analyze food samples; and d) review, compile, and disseminate data. Beef data will be evaluated by nutrient and cut and compared across primals (chuck, brisket, etc.) and cooking methods. New meat data processed through the National Data Bank System (NDBS) will support calculations of cooking yield and retention factors (means, variances, and associated 90% or 95% confidence intervals). NDL will identify SR foods to be added or updated; this list will be provided to FSRG to prioritize foods needed in WWEIA (e.g., commercially processed and restaurant foods to replace home recipes), ensuring WWEIA adequately represents respondent reports. For important new foods, NFNAP sampling may include analytical data available for the next survey-SR dataset; standardized NDBS imputation procedures will be used to calculate missing values. NDL analyzed each Sentinel Food (SF; 2010-2013) for all nutrients; they will be reanalyzed every 4-8 years depending on budget and priority using the Principal Axis Factoring (Factor Analysis): consumption frequency in WWEIA, NHANES, 2009-10; potential for reduction (New York City’s National Salt Reduction Initiative targets); and history of change in the market. NDL will obtain and disseminate data for sulfur-containing bioactive compounds, detailing other factors (cultivars, location, weather, growing conditions) which impact concentration and focusing on genus Brassica, Allium; samples will be obtained through NFNAP and analyzed by ARS-Food Composition and Methods Development Laboratory (FCMDL) and sources and magnitudes of variability studied. Food selected for analysis for non-nutritive components will be based on flavonoid content, lack of analytical data, and potential for developing retention factors for related foods. The proanthcyanidin database will be expanded using formulations (linear regression techniques) developed for SR, to provide values to FSRG for foods reported in WWEIA-NHANES. Standardized, user-friendly databases will be released; collaboration with ILSI North America/Agricultural Technology Innovation Partnership (ATIP) Foundation and the food industry will be explored to expand the number of brand name foods. ATIP will develop/manage a new portal to facilitate submission of food manufacturers’ brand name nutrient data, strengthening NDL database for policy makers, researchers and the public. In parallel, NDL will work with other partners to identify infrastructure improvements to the NDBS.

Progress Report
SR and survey: SR27 has been released and contains data for over 8,600 food items for up to 150 components. Some of the foods added or updated in SR27 include: Breakfast cereals, fried chicken pieces (breast, thigh, and wing) and skin and breading, fast food biscuit, chicken strips, hash browns, chicken noodle condensed soup, fried shrimp (from restaurant), several pulses (chickpeas, green and red lentils, and green peas), a number of vegetarian items, enhanced and non-enhanced pork loin chops, rotisserie chicken breast, Italian-style meatballs, turkey bacon, popular juice smoothies and fortified juice products, greek yogurt, sorghum grain and flour, green tea, energy drinks, and other beverages. The online search program has been accessed over 2.3 million times in the past year by 1.3 million unique users. NFNAP: 125 foods were selected for sampling and analysis. Most foods were selected for analysis, if they were frequently reported in the national survey, What We Eat In America, NHANES (e.g., flavored chips such as Doritos, mayonnaise-type dressings such as Miracle Whip), had been reformulated based on review of labels (e.g., sour cream, microwave popcorn), or had not been analyzed for the longest periods of time (e.g., butter, margarine). Some foods that have become highly popular in the past few years were also included (e.g., whole grain pasta, turkey bacon, wheat hamburger rolls, flavored Greek yogurt). The foods were picked up nationwide from 12 different locations and shipped to Food Analysis Laboratory Control Center (FALCC), Virginia Tech (Blacksburg,VA), and Texas Tech University's Animal and Food Sciences laboratory. The foods were weighed, cooked, dissected, and homogenized to prepare about 750 composites and 7,000 samples, which were sent for chemical analyses to commercial laboratories and universities, along with quality control materials. Most foods were analyzed to develop a full nutrient profile comprising of macronutrients, minerals, vitamins, fatty acids, and amino acids. The updated food composition data were used to update USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference (SR), the foundation for most food composition databases used in food policy, research, dietary practice, and nutrition monitoring in the U.S. 124 samples (representing 94 foods) were sent to Tufts University under a SCA for Vitamin K analysis. One paper has been submitted to the Journal of Food Composition and Analysis. UNC and choline: 33 Samples were analyzed for choline at University of North Carolina. Cooperator expertise was used to develop food matrix specific methods for handling and analyzing samples. The Cooperator also offered expertise in interpretation of results of the choline components analyses. The choline values obtained will be released in SR, for use by the research community in epidemiological studies and to establish a relationship between choline and betaine intake and the etiology of neural tube defect. Release 1 of USDA’s Expanded Flavonoid Database for the Assessment of Dietary Intakes was made available on NDL’s web site in September 2014. It contains full flavonoid profiles for nearly 3,000 foods reported as consumed in NHANES-WWEIA 2007-08 and will be used to correlate health outcomes with flavonoid intake. Work began on preparing Release 2 of the USDA Database for the Proanthocyanidin Content of Selected Foods. Work also began on new database on sulfur-containing bioactive components. An ARS scientist with experience in analyzing these compounds worked with FCMDL to analyze various foods. Meat research was extensive; NDL ordered samples of food which were delivered to the TTU cooperator for weighing, dissecting for physical components, preparation including cooking, packaging, and shipment to specified analytical laboratories for nutrient analysis. Texas Tech University research specialists processed 3 different types of meat samples. The Cooperator established procedures for the implementation of these steps and for inclusion of control materials or duplicate samples for quality control assurance. In addition, this agreement included consultations with NDL and contract laboratories on issues of methodology, sample analysis, handling and storage. The Cooperator offered expertise in experimental design and interpretation of results of the nutrient analyses. In the NDL-led pilot study on interlaboratory methods for measuring vitamin D and 25(OH)D in animal-based foods and dietary supplements, NDL identified 5 international and U.S. laboratories who agreed to participate. Six suitable materials were identified and sent to the labs for analysis. Analytical data and methods information were obtained from the laboratories. NDL began evaluating the data and will report the results. Sodium Monitoring: The Nutrient Data Laboratory (NDL) in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Agricultural Research Services’ (ARS) Food Surveys Research Group (FSRG) has developed a plan to monitor levels of sodium in commercially processed and restaurant foods. As part of the monitoring plan, about 125 selected commercially processed and restaurant food items, termed ‘Sentinel Foods,’ will be tracked as indicators to assess the changes in the sodium content of the food supply. The Sentinel Foods were selected based on the dietary data from the national survey, What We Eat in America (WWEIA), National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and accounted for about one-third of total sodium intake in WWEIA, NHANES 2007-2008. NDL has been monitoring nutrient profiles of these Sentinel Foods through nationwide sampling and laboratory analysis, using standardized validated procedures under the USDA National Food and Nutrient Analysis Program (NFNAP). In addition, over 1,100 other commercially processed and restaurant foods (Priority-2 Foods) are monitored using information from manufacturers or restaurant chains and their websites or Nutrition Facts Panels. In addition to sodium, related nutrients (total sugar, potassium, total and saturated fat, and total dietary fiber) that may change as food manufacturers reformulate are also being monitored. During FY 2014, the baseline analyses of all 125 Sentinel Foods and re-sampling and analyses of 3 highly popular foods (bread, hot dog rolls and tortilla) were completed. In addition, over 40 additional sodium-contributing foods were analyzed. Nutrient data for many of these items were based on formulations/recipes or old analytical data, and many of these foods were identified as having big changes in their sodium content. Inclusion of these foods will improve food composition data in SR and assessment of sodium intakes in WWEIA, NHANES. In addition, it will provide CDC an early and essential indication of how sodium and related nutrients are changing in the U.S. food supply, and will focus further investigations and assessment. A manuscript on the sodium monitoring methodology is under review by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Several studies were conducted using the new analytical data on Sentinel Foods. A study comparing the analytical data with label data found significant differences (p<0.05) for quarter of the 77 Sentinel Foods studied. The differences between analytical and label values were not significant by brand (national vs. store). The percent differences between analytical values and label values were lower for restaurants than stores. These data will be further reviewed in FY 2015 for all Sentinel Foods, to help validate the methodology for sodium monitoring, i.e. combination of laboratory analysis and use of data on labels or manufacturer and restaurant websites. A study on Chinese dishes shows the high variability in sodium content (13% in General Tso to 56% in lemon chicken) of these dishes. Studies done by NDL meat scientists show that sodium values for enhanced forms of meats - pork, turkey, chicken breast, and dark meat chicken were significantly higher than the non-enhanced forms (p<0.001). The sodium values in these products ranged from 154 mg - 231 mg/100g for enhanced compared to 45 mg -113 mg/100g for non-enhanced. A study comparing four pairs of similar foods such as chicken nuggets from store and restaurant did not find any consistent differences between the two sources. These studies improve our understanding of the food environment, and help focus public health efforts.

1. Nutrient data for foods and other dietary components are critical to the assessment of dietary intake and support the investigation of hypotheses concerning the relationship of dietary intake to health status. During 2014, the Nutrient Data Laboratory developed and released the annual update of the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference (SR27) Nutrient profiles for over 300 foods were added to SR27 ( Of these, 121 were added or updated using NFNAP data; the remainder was obtained from food industry sources.

2. Release of Ground Beef Calculator, Version 2. The Ground Beef Calculator Version 2, released in 2014, computes nutrient profiles for raw and prepared ground beef products at lean/fat levels between 97/3 and 70/30. Analytical data were used in mixed model regression analysis to obtain a regression equation for each nutrient at fat levels ranging from 3% to 30%. This user-friendly on-line tool provides nutrient values for ground beef for five preparation methods: raw, broiled patties, pan-broiled patties, pan-browned crumbles, and baked loaf. The Ground Version 2 is an update of the original ground beef calculator released in 2006 with lean/fat levels between 95/5 and 70/30.