The Basics of Food Information Systems
Food information refers to data on food substances and their uses. It is intended to assist the consumer in making food choices and in communicating food information to others. The term “food” is generally used to refer to any foodstuff, including dairy products, grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, oils, mushrooms, nuts, and other naturally occurring foods. In most scientific systems, food is generally of microbial, plant or animal origin, and consists of necessary nutrients, including vitamins, carbohydrates, proteins, and minerals. The food information system aims to promote understanding and awareness of food concepts, to increase knowledge of nutrition and diet, and to stimulate interest and involvement in nutrition and diet.
A food information system typically includes at least three major components. First, there would be a comprehensive database with detailed information on thousands of food substances, including detailed nutrient profiles and food composition information. The database will include both complete and incomplete data on each food substance, allowing users to select which categories they wish to search. Nutrient profiles are described by quantity and percent concentration (as possible), availability, nutrient density, health value, and other relevant criteria.
The second element of a food information system is the list of suppliers, including details on production methods, production preferences, sales volume, and availability. More specifically, consumers will be able to access and review ingredient lists, nutritive value statements, Nutrition Facts tables, and product comparisons side-by-side. Finally, users will be able to communicate with suppliers directly via phone, e-mail, and Web browsing. The third and most important component of the food information system is review and rating processes for suppliers, which would be tabulated and evaluated periodically. These would be designed to ensure that consumers are provided with the best quality foods that meet their dietary needs and contribute to good health.