Do you ever find yourself wondering about the nutritional value of certain foods? Whether you want to learn more about the nutrition of a banana or steak, you can consult the USDA’s National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. The database provides nutrition information for more than 8,000 foods and 146 nutrients.
Established in 1862, the mission of the United States Department of Agriculture is to provide leadership on agriculture, food, natural resources and other related issues based on sound policy, efficient management and the best available science. The Agricultural Research Service is just one of many departments of the USDA. The USDA is also responsible for food inspection, food safety and dietary recommendations.
History of the National Nutrition Database
The first food composition tables were published in 1891 and outlined the “refuse”, water, fat, protein, carbohydrates and “ash” of 178 different foods. In 1980s, the data was computerized and, since then, the USDA has developed a variety of applications to make information submission and searching easier.
The Database and Upkeep
Today, the database is updated every year by the Nutrient Data Laboratory, NDL. The database is organized by 25 different food groups and contains a search function to make research easier. The actual guidelines can be used online or downloaded. The primary component is the Standard Reference; the database is also used to support the Nutrient Examination Survey: What We Eat in America. Since the data comes from a variety of sources, there are several quality control checks, developed by the NDL, put in place before the data is released.
How It Is Used
This database provides the basis for most food composition databases or information in the country. The data and information is used to support food consumption surveys and research, policy, education, treatment and nutrition programs throughout the United States. The database does not contain dietary advice, so other references should be consulted for dietary information.
- USDA: National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference
- USDA: Composition of Foods Raw, Processed, Prepared USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 25
- USDA Agriculture Research Service: About Us
- USDA Agriculture Research Service: How To Submit Data to the USDA Nutrient Databases
- US Recall News: History of the U.S. Department of Agriculture USDA
- New York Times: Nutrition Plate Unveiled, Replacing Food Pyramid
- USDA Agriculture Research Service: USDA’s Nutrient Databank System
Poppy Carpenter graduated from the University of Missouri School of Journalism. In addition to teaching journalism to junior high students, she also covers health and fitness for "PUSH Monthly" and Angie's List.