Foods published in the Australian Food Composition Database are assigned a name which is used to describe the product and to help users identify the correct data. The Food Name aims to provide key details about the food, capturing the most commonly available form of the food and, where relevant, its preparation. Exceptions to the commonly available form of the food may also be included. For example, sugar-sweetened soft drinks are simply referred to as 'soft drinks' whereas the intense-sweetened versions are referred to as 'soft drink, intense sweetened'. In situations where a food's common form of availability is not obvious, nutritionally relevant information is included; for example, boiled white rice is referred to as either 'boiled, with added salt' if salt is included in preparation, or 'boiled, no added salt' if no salt has been included.
Where vitamins and/or minerals are added to a food for fortification purposes, this is generally identified in the Food Name. Where a food is always supplied in a fortified form, such as bread-making flour with the mandatory addition of thiamin, folic acid and iodine, this information is not included in the food name but is included in the Food Description.
Very few brands are used in the Food Name. This is because the formulation of specific products changes over time and nutrient levels at the time of analysis may not reflect those in a particular brand some years later. In the few cases where a specific brand is mentioned, this is generally intended to provide guidance for the user in situations where there are a number of products available with similar appearance but with differing nutrient composition. The values reported should be regarded as reflecting the average composition of that class of food. If you require information on the nutrients in a specific product as currently available, you should check the product's nutrition information panel or consult the manufacturer. Very few foods are analysed as a single brand only. The exceptions include
Milo™ and some breakfast cereals.
The majority of nutrient data published in the Australian Food Composition Database is analysed data. A small proportion of data comes from overseas food composition tables, the food industry, recipe calculations, food label information and imputing from similar foods. We use derivation codes to describe the source of the data.
Even though each food and beverage is assigned an overall derivation code, individual nutrient values for some foods may have been derived using a different technique. For example, a food described as being Analysed may have a small number of nutrient values that were imputed from similar foods. Although the derivation for each individual nutrient value is not systematically presented, the Sampling Details field often contains this information using the same terms as below to describe the data origin.
Analysed (1005 foods)
The majority of nutrient values presented in the Australian Food Composition Database have been determined by laboratory analysis of foods purchased in Australia. Most of the older analytical data is derived from foods which have been purchased in one or more capital cities, generally Sydney, Melbourne or Adelaide. However, for more recent analytical programs, samples have been purchased nationally. For packaged foods, four to eight separate purchases are usually chosen to reflect the market composition at the time of analysis. For unpackaged foods, generally six to 12 purchases are made. In nearly all cases, the purchased items are mixed together to form a single analytical sample (or 'composite') that reflects the average composition of that type of product at the time the sample was prepared. This method does not provide information on the variation of nutrient levels between samples. In the case of samples purchased for the 2006 and 2008 Key Foods Programs and the 19th, 20th and 22nd Australian Total Diet Studies, values are means of sub-samples purchased nationally, with the sub-samples analysed separately.
For some foods, particularly major foods such as breads, a number of analytical programs may have been conducted over time. The results presented in the Australian Food Composition Database are usually the average results of these programs. However, where we know that changes have occurred to the formulation, processing or growing conditions of a food, or where an improved analytical method is now available, only newer data is reported.
A small number of nutrient values in records with a derivation code of Analysed may have been determined by other techniques, such as imputation or borrowing, where analytical data for these nutrients was not available.
For a number of foods in the Australian Food Composition Database, Australian food companies and organisations have provided us with nutrient data for their products. This data is largely generated by analysis. The data is incorporated into our food composition databases in accordance with our standard validation methodologies.
Recipe (508 foods*)
A number of foods reported in the Australian Food Composition Database are 'recipe' foods. For these foods, an average recipe for the food, as commonly prepared in Australia, is developed and the overall nutrient profile for that food is calculated from the nutrient data for the individual recipe ingredients. The recipe also takes into account, where necessary, loss or gain of moisture and nutrients during processing. Examples of recipe foods include most toasted breads, prepared cordials and some home-prepared traditional foods such as Anzac biscuits.
Information on the recipes used in the Australian Food Composition Database including weight changes and nutrient retention factors are available in the
Recipe File and
Retention Factor File. These factors are used to adjust the nutrient profile of a food based on assumptions about moisture gain or loss and nutrient loss during preparation.
* Note that a large number of red meat records (210) are derived using a recipe approach based on analytical data for the separated lean meat and fat portions and gross composition data measured by the laboratory for each meat cut. The lean meat and fat data is then combined based on the laboratory analysis of the proportion of each in different cuts when all fat present at purchase is retained (untrimmed), and when fat on the exterior is cut off (semi-trimmed). This helps to reflect the varying amounts of fat that may be removed between purchase and eating.
Borrowed (61 foods)
Small amounts of data have been borrowed from food composition tables published by the governments of the United States (USDA, 2008-2018), the United Kingdom (Food Standards Agency, 2002-2015), New Zealand (New Zealand FOODfiles 2018, Lesperance, 2009, Athar et al, 2003), Denmark (Møller et al, 2005), and Singapore (Ministry of Health, 2000). Data have also been included from the
Tables of Composition of Australian Aboriginal Foods (Brand Miller et al, 1993). Individual nutrient values may have been obtained by borrowing to fill important data gaps in an analysed nutrient profile. In general, nutrient data is only borrowed from overseas food tables where the food is imported into Australia or where it was considered there was a need for the nutrient data but suitable Australian data could not be identified.
Imputed (24 foods)
Imputation is the process of assuming that a nutrient value in one food can represent that in another similar food. For example, in the case of salmon canned in water with no added salt, nutrient values other than sodium and chloride will be imputed from those for salmon canned in brine. Imputation also includes the process of assuming that some foods contain none of a particular nutrient, based on knowledge of the composition of that food. Imputation has only been used where we have confidence in the validity of the assumptions made. It is more commonly used for particular nutrients in a food rather than for a food as a whole. For example for soft drinks, vitamin E has been imputed as zero as soft drinks contain no fat (vitamin E is a fat soluble nutrient) and are not labelled as containing added vitamin E.
Label (13 foods)
A small number of records contain nutrient data derived from label information. Label information has been included where:
- no analytical or other appropriate data were available for that food
- the food was considered significant in the diet for all or some of the population and
- there have been known changes to production practices such as fortification, since the original data were generated.
Values presented are, wherever possible, averaged over a number of brands and taken from the nutrition information panels for these products. Because nutrition information panels are only required to report nutrient data for a small number of nutrients, some values in these records may have been derived by other techniques such as imputation.
Calculated (5 foods)
Some records, particularly for cooked wine and dry noodles, have been calculated using techniques similar to the recipe approach described above, but without generation of a formal recipe. This method is used in the limited cases where the standard recipe generation method does not account for factors such as the loss of alcohol or substantial moisture changes.