Skip to main content Accesibility Help

Importance and use of reliable food composition data generation by nutrition/dietetic professionals towards solving Africa's nutrition problem: constraints and the role of FAO/INFOODS/AFROFOODS and other stakeholders in future initiatives

  • Henrietta Ene-Obong (a1), Hettie C. Schönfeldt (a2), Ella Campaore (a3), Angela Kimani (a4), Rosemary Mwaisaka (a5), Anna Vincent (a6), Jalila El Ati (a7), Pascal Kouebou (a8), Karl Presser (a9), Paul Finglas (a10) and U. Ruth Charrondiere (a11)...

Despite the rich biodiversity of the African continent and the tremendous progress so far made in food production, Africa is still struggling with the problems of food insecurity, hunger and malnutrition. To combat these problems, the production and consumption of nutritious and safe foods need to be promoted. This cannot be achieved without reliable data on the quantity and quality of nutrients and other components provided through these foods. Food composition data (FCD) are compiled as food composition tables (FCT) or food composition databases (FCDB). These are subsequently used for a variety of purposes, ranging from clinical practice, research, public health/education, food industry to planning and policy, as well as nutrition monitoring and surveillance. To perform these functions effectively, the importance of reliable FCT/FCDB cannot be overemphasised. Poor quality FCT/FCDB have serious consequences on the health of the population, and provide skew evidence towards developing nutrition and health-related policies. The present paper reviews different methods to generate FCT/FCDB, their importance and use in assisting nutrition/dietetic professionals in solving Africa's nutrition problems; current status of FCT/FCDB generation, compilation and dissemination in Africa, constraint to their use by professionals and the role of FAO/INFOODS/AFROFOODS and other stakeholders towards improvement and future initiatives. The information provided will create awareness on the need for up-to-date and high-quality FCT/FCDB and facilitate the identification of data gaps and prioritisation of future efforts in FCD generation, compilation and dissemination in Africa and subsequent strategies for the alleviation of the food and nutrition problems in Africa.

Corresponding author
*Corresponding author: Henrietta Ene-Obong, email
Hide All
1.Development Initiatives (2017) Global Nutrition Report 2017: Nourishing the SDGs. Bristol, UK: Development Initiatives.
2.Fanzo, J (2012) The challenges in Sub-Saharan Africa. WHO Working Paper, UNDP.
3.World Health Organization (2017) The double burden of malnutrition. Policy brief. Geneva: World Health Organization.
4.Nutrition in the WHO African Region (2017) Brazzaville: World Health Organization; 2017. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3·0 IGO.
5.United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (2015) Seventieth session of the United Nations General Assembly, New York, 21 October 2015, Agenda item 15 & 116 (A/70/L.1); (accessed November 2018).
6.UNICEF/WHO/World Bank (2017) Levels and trends in child malnutrition. (accessed November 2018).
7.McLean, E, Ogswell, M, Egli, I et al. (2009) Worldwide prevalence of anemia, WHO vitamin and mineral and Nutrition Information System, 1003–2005. Public Health Nutr 12, 444454.
8.Yang, Z & Huffman, SL (2011) Review of fortified food and beverage products for pregnant and lactating women and their impact on nutritional status. Maternal Child Nutr 7, 1943.
9.Thurnham, DI (2013) Nutrition of adolescent girls in low and middle-income countries. Sight and Life 27, 2637.
10.Harika, R, Faber, M, Samuel, F et al. (2017) Are low intakes and deficiencies in iron, vitamin A, zinc, and iodine of public health concern in Ethiopian, Kenyan, Nigerian, and South African children and adolescents? Food Nutr Bull 38, 405427.
11.Bleichrodt, N (1994) A meta analysis of research on iodine and its relationship to cognitive development. In The Damaged Brain of Iodine Deficiency, pp. 195200 [Stanbury, JB editor]. New York, NY: Cognizant Communication.
12.Ploysangam, A, Falciglia, GA & Brehm, BJ (1997) Effect of marginal zinc deficiency on human growth and development. J Trop Pediatr 43, 192198.
13.Walter, T (2003) Effect of iron-deficiency anemia on cognitive skills and neuromaturation in infancy and childhood. Food Nutr Bull 24, Suppl, S104S110.
14.Stoltzfus, R, Mullany, L & Black, R (2004) Iron deficiency anaemia. In Comparative Quantification of Health Risks: Global and Regional Burden of Disease Attributable to Selected Major Risk Factors, pp. 163209 [Ezzati, MLA, Rodgers, A & Murray, CLJ editors]. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization.
15.Rice, AL, West, KP & Black, RE (2004) Vitamin A deficiency. In 422 Food and Nutrition Bulletin 38(3) Comparative Quantification of Health Risks: Global and Regional Burden of Disease Attributable to Selected Major Risk Factors, pp. 211256 [Ezzati, MLA, Rodgers, A and Murray, CLJ editors]. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization.
16.Greenberg, H & Deckelbaum, RJ (2016) Diet and non-communicable diseases: an urgent need for new paradigms. In Good Nutrition: Perspectives for the 21st Century, pp. 105118 [Eggersdorfer, M, Kraemer, K & Cordaro, JB et al. , editors]. Basel: Karger Publishers.
17.Popkin, BM (2006) Global nutrition dynamics: the world is shifting rapidly toward a diet linked with non communicable diseases. Amer J ClinNutr 84, 289298.
18.Thakur, JS (2005) Emerging epidemic of non- diseases: an urgent need for control initiative. Indian J Community Med 30 (Editorial), 103.
19.World Economic Forum (2011) From ‘Burden to Best Buys’: Reducing the economic impact of non-communicable diseases in low-and middle-income countries. (accessed October 2018).
20.Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, World Health Organization. Rome Declaration on Nutrition (2014) In: Second International Conference on Nutrition, Rome, 19–21 November 2014. Conference outcome document (ICN2 2014/2; (31 October 2018).
21.Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) The history of the SUN-Movement (2015) (accessed October 2018).
22.United Nations Decade of Action on Nutrition. In: Seventieth session of the United Nations General Assembly, New York, 15–28 September 2015. Agenda item 15 (A70/L.42); (accessed October 2018).
23.World Health Organization African Regional Nutritional Strategy 2005–2015.; African Union Commission, Agenda 2063.
24.African Union Malabo Declaration (2014) In: Twenty-third Ordinary Session, Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, 26–27 June 2014. Decisions, Declarations & Resolutions. (accessed October 2028).
26.Babu, SC (2017) Why malnutrition continues to be a development challenge. (Accessed November 2018).
27.Malabo Montpellier Panel (2017) Nourished: How Africa Can Build a Future Free from Hunger and Malnutrition. Dakar. August 2017. (accessed November 2018).
28.Micha, R, Coates, J, Leclercq, C et al. (2018) Global dietary surveillance: data gaps and challenges. Food and Nutr Bull 39, 175205.
29.Greenfield, H & Southgate, DAT (2003) Food Composition Data: Production, Management and Use, 2nd ed. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization.
30.Pennington, JAT (2008) Applications of food composition data: data source and consideration for use. J Food Comp Anal 21, S312.
31.Food and Agriculture Organization/International Network of Food Data Systems (FAO/INFOODS) (2018) Structure and tasks of INFOODS. (11 November 2018).
32.Food and Agriculture Organization (1949) Food Composition Table for International Use. Rome, Italy: FAO.
33.FAO/INFOODS Food Composition Database. (accessed October 2018).
34.Atwater, WO & Woods, CD (1896) The chemical composition of American food materials. US Office of Experiment Stations. Experiment Stations Bulletin 28. Government Printing Office:Washington, DC. (accessed November 2018).
35.McCance, RA & Widdowson, EM (1940) The Chemical Composition of Foods. Medical Research Council Special Report Series no. 235. HMSO: London.
36.Platt, BS (1962) Tables of Representative Values of Foods Commonly Used in Tropical Countries, Medical Research Council special report series no. 302. London: HM Stationery Office.
37.Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation (1968) Food Composition Table for Use in Africa. Rome, Italy: FAO/UN.
38.West, CE, Pepping, F & Temalilwa, CR (1998) The Composition of Foods Commonly Eaten in East Africa. Wageningen, The Netherland: Wageningen Agricultural University.
39.Stadlmayr, B, Charrondiere, UR & Andy, P (2010) Composition of Selected Foods from West Africa. Rome, Italy: FAO/UN. (accessed November 2018).
40.Stadlmayr, B, Charrondiere, U, Enujiugha, V et al. (2012) West African Food Composition Table. Table de composition des aliments d'Afrique de l'Ouest. Rome, Italy: FAO.
41.Burlingame, B (2003) Evidence for diet and chronic disease relationships requires food composition data (Editorial). J Food Compos Anal 16, 109.
42.Finglas, PM, Berry, R & Astley, S (2014) Assessing and improving the quality of food composition databases for nutrition and health applications in Europe: the contribution of EuroFIR. Adv Nutr 5, 608S614S.
43.Williamson, C (2006) The different uses of food composition data. Synthesis report No. 2: EuroFIR, Norwick, UK (accessed August 2018).
44.International Confederation of Dietetic Association (2016) International Competency Standards for Dietitian-Nutritionists. ICDA. (accessed October 2018).
46.Charrondiere, UR, Stadlmayr, B, Wijesinha-Bettoni, R et al. (2013) INFOODS contributions to fulfilling needs and meeting challenges concerning food composition databases. Procedia Food Sci 2, 3545.
47.Klensin, J, Feskanich, D, Lin, V et al. (1989) Identification of food components for INFOODS data interchange. The United Nations University Food and Nutrition Bulletin Supplement 16, 106p. (accessed December 2018).
48.FAO (2012) FAO/INFOODS Guidelines for Checking Food Composition Data prior to the Publication of a User Table/Database - Version 1·0. Rome: FAO. (accessed October 2018).
49.FAO. FAO/INFOODS Guidelines on Food Matching (2012). Rome: FAO. (accessed August 2018).
50.FAO (2012) INFOODS Guidelines for Converting Units, Denominators and Expressions Version 1·0. (accessed August 2018).
51.FAO Compilation tool, Version 1·2·1 and User guidelines. (accessed November 2018).
52.Presser, K, Weber, D & Norrie, M (2018) FoodCASE: A system to manage food composition, consumption and Total Diet Studies (TDS). Food Chem 238, 166172.
53.European Food information Resource (EuroFIR): FoodEXplorer. (accessed November 2018).
54.Wolmarans, P & Danster, NA (2008) Characteristics of South African food composition database, an essential tool for the nutrition fraternity in the country: part 1. S Afr J ClinNutr 21, 308313.
55.Nigerian Food Composition Table (2017) Sanusi RA, Akinyele IO, Ene-Obong HN et al. (Editors), University of Ibadan, (accessed October 2918).
56.FAO/Government of Kenya (2018) Kenya Food Composition Tables. Nairobi, 254 pp. (accessed November 2018).
57.Stadlmayr, B, Charrondiere, UR, Eisenwagen, S et al. (2013) Nutrient composition of selected indigenous fruits from Sub-Saharan Africa. J Sci Food Agric 93, 26272636.
58.Charrondiere, UR (2017) Food composition challenges. (accessed November 2018).
59.Schonfeldt, H & Hall, N (2013) Capacity building in food composition for Africa. Food Chem 140, 513519.
60.FAO/INFOODS (2017) Training. (accessed November 2018).
61.Leclercq, C, Valsta, LM & Turrini, A (2001) Food composition issues – implications for the development of food-based dietary guidelines. Public Health Nutr 4, 677782.
62.Bruyn, J, Ferguson, E, Allman-Farinelli, M et al. (2016) Food composition tables in resource-poor settings: exploring current limitations and opportunities with a focus on animal-source foods in Sub-Saharan Africa. Br J Nutr 116, 17091719.
63.Chege, PM & Ndungu, ZW (2016) Opportunities and limitations of using food composition tables in clinical nutrition dietetics in Kenya. EC Nutrition 6, 2427.
64.Ghaemmaghamia, J, Mahdavib, R, Nikniaz, Z et al. (2012) Comparison of some mineral contents of common Iranian food items with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) table. Nutr Food Sci 42, 442448.
65.AFROFOODS’ Arusha Declaration (2015) AFROFOODS meeting held in Arusha, Tanzania at FANUS conference, 25–29 May 2015. (accessed November 2018).
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Proceedings of the Nutrition Society
  • ISSN: 0029-6651
  • EISSN: 1475-2719
  • URL: /core/journals/proceedings-of-the-nutrition-society
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed