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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BHNRC) » Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center » Nutrient Data Laboratory » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #210657

Title: USDA's Composition Data for Fruits and Vegetables -- Sources, Measurement, and Variation

item Holden, Joanne
item Gebhardt, Susan
item Haytowitz, David
item Bhagwat, Seema
item Harnly, James - Jim

Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/13/2007
Publication Date: 7/17/2007
Citation: Holden, J.M., Gebhardt, S.E., Haytowitz, D.B., Harnly, J.M. 2007. Usda's composition data for fruits and vegetables -- sources, measurement, and variation. Annual Conference of the American Society for Horticultural Science, July 16, 2007, Scottsdale, Arizona.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: For more than 100 years the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has supported the generation and compilation of food composition data. Today the Agricultural Research Service, USDA develops and maintains the National Nutrient Data Bank, a repository of food composition data which provides the foundation for most other U.S. food composition database applications including the databases for the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES): What We Eat in America as well as for the development of food and nutrition policy, product development, food regulation, trade, and education. As a result, the data must be accurate for the current food supply. USDA food composition data are disseminated via the website In recent years there has been some concern about the apparent decline of some nutrient values for selected fruits and vegetables since 1950. These observations have been based, in part, on the publicly available USDA datasets for this period. Sources of data for these databases have included scientific literature, the food industry, standard calculations, and, from time to time, USDA experimental studies for food analysis. In earlier times most of the data were obtained from the scientific literature. Various factors, including specificity of nutrient components, state of analytical methods, representativeness of sample units, and agricultural and environmental factors including cultivars influence mean levels and variability of values. Through a collaboration with the U.S. National Institutes of Health, USDA has developed the National Food and Nutrient Analysis Program to generate original analytical data for important foods. The challenging process of maintaining a dynamic reservoir of accurate, current, and specific estimates for components in foods requires continuous efforts and support for analytical methodology research, data generation, including studies of variability, and data compilation. Cooperation with the food industry, the scientific community and government agencies is essential to this process.