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FoodData Central Help

FoodData Central search results can be viewed on both mobile and desktop devices. At this time, results available for viewing on mobile devices include only nutrients by serving. On desktop devices, users can view detailed data about foods, including nutrient and food component values, as well as underlying metadata, such as sample information and analytical approaches used.

Dates

FoodData Central provides several different dates related to the acquisition and analysis of samples and the publication of data:

FoodData Central (FDC) Published Date
The “FDC Published” date, shown on the search results page, represents the original date the food was made available in FoodData Central.
Foundation Foods
Data on these foods are periodically updated, so the “FDC Published” date is the date when the food was first added to FDC.
Food and Nutrient Database for Dietary Studies (FNDDS)
Currently this data type includes FNDDS 2017-2018 data with an “FDC Published” date of 10/15/20.
USDA Global Branded Foods Products Database
Branded Foods are updated monthly. Updated records will be published with a new “FDC Published” date when they are made available on the site and through the API.
SR Legacy
SR Legacy is the final release of the Standard Reference data type and the “FDC Published” date will remain as 4/1/19.

Other Important Dates for Data Types

FNDDS

Start and End Dates
These dates are found only in the FNDDS data type. New releases of FNDDS data follow the same two-year cycles as the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).  FoodData Central now provides FNDDS 2017-2018 data. This is indicated by the 1/1/2017 Start date and 12/31/2018 End date at the top of the food details page. Earlier FNDDS releases can be found on the Food Surveys Research Group website.

Foundation Foods

Sample Acquisition Date
This is the date on which an individual sample of a food was acquired for analysis. This date can be found by clicking on a “Sources” link on the search results page.
Initial Date Acquired
This is the date on which the first sample was acquired for analyzing a particular nutrient or component within a food item.

USDA Global Branded Foods Database

Available Date
This is the date when the product record was available for inclusion in FoodData Central.
Modified Date
This date reflects when the product data was last modified by the data partner who submitted the data.

Key Terms and Concepts

Sample

Components
Components are the chemical constituents in foods and include recognized nutrients.
Nutrients
Nutrients are substances that by scientific consensus have been shown to be indispensable to the body’s functioning and are essential for growth, energy, maintenance, and optimal health.
Sample
A food that is acquired for analysis.
Agricultural/Market Acquisition
Information about what, where, or when a food or item was purchased, harvested, or produced.
Source
The location from which a sample was acquired.

Search Results

Search Results Pages
The pages listing all the foods that match the search criteria entered by the user and that provide nutrient and related information for a specific food.

Identifying and Categorizing Food Items

FDC_ID Number
This is the number provided for each food data record in FoodData Central. A food record is the totality of information (e.g., values for components, including nutrients, descriptive information) published on a food item. Each time the data in a food record changes, that food item receives a new FDC_ID number.
FDC Source_ID Number
This is the number that identifies the record of a unique sample of a food that has been analyzed for one or more components, including nutrients.
NDB Number
This number is a unique identifier for each food in a specific form used for Foundation Foods and SR Legacy. Even if the FDC_ID number changes because of an update to the food record, the NDB number will remain the same because it is linked to the food, not to the information about the food. Users can search for a food item by the name of the food or the NDB number.
Global Trade Item Number (GTIN)
The GTIN is a number that can be used by a company to uniquely identify their trade items. It is used to identify specific food product in the USDA Global Branded Foods Database. Users can search for a specific food product by the name of the food or the GTIN number. More information on product identification can be found in Branded Food data quality documentation at https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/data-documentation.html
Food Code
An 8-digit number that identifies foods in FNDDS. These foods are used in analyses of NHANES dietary data. Users can search for a food in FNDDS either by its name or its food code.
Food Category
A method for classifying similar foods. Each data type has its own system of food categories.

Characteristics of Nutrient and Food Component Values

Min
The smallest amount of a component found in an analyzed sample of a food item.
Max
The greatest amount of a component found in an analyzed sample of a food item.
Median
The amount of a component that is at the midpoint of all the amounts in the samples analyzed for a food item.
Average Amount
The amount of a component derived by summing the amounts for each analyzed sample and then dividing by the number of samples.
Limit of Quantification
LOQ is the lowest amount of measure in a sample that can be quantitatively determined with acceptable precision. LOQ values are represented with less than (<) values.

Updates to Food Data

Information about the foods in FoodData Central is updated periodically. At the current time, only the USDA Global Branded Foods Database allows users to see changes to the data in this data type. The search results page will include an Update Log tab for those foods that have been updated. This tab will appear next to the Nutrients tab and users can learn about specific changes by clicking on this tab. The log will list one or more previous food records for that food item (i.e., “an historical food record”). Each of these historical food records will detail the specific change. These changes can be any one of the following:

  • Description changed
  • Food category changed
  • Ingredient changed
  • Nutrient value changed
  • Nutrient added
  • Nutrient removed
  • Serving size changed

Users can compare the current food record to the historical food record by clicking on the historical record. This will bring up a new browser window allowing users to see the records side by side.

Tips for Online Searching

Conducting a Search

A search on FoodData Central involves four steps:

  • Step 1:  Use the Search FoodData Central box, which is found on each page of the website. You can search for a current item by its name or by one of the numbers that uniquely identifies that item within a specific FDC data type (e.g., NDB number, FNDDS Food Code, or GTIN number).
  • Step 2: Use the “Filter Search Results” on the left side of the screen to select the data type you want to search. The numbers in parentheses after the data type indicate the number of foods in that type related to your search. If you want to search all of the data types, leave all the boxes checked. If you want to search one or more specific data types, unselect the boxes next to the data type you do not want to include in the search. Click Search.
  • Step 3: You will see a Search Results page that provides a list of items from the data type(s) you selected. Click on the item that best matches the food you are interested in.
  • Step 4: A more detailed search results page provides nutrient and other food component values, portion size information, and other information about the item and how the data were derived.

For more information on searching FoodData Central using downloads, see the Download Data page.

Using Search Operators

You can use symbols in your search to make your search results more precise.

Search for an exact phrase
Quotation marks search for an exact phrase:

"green pepper" will only match green pepper products, not anything with the word “green” or “pepper” in it.

Require words
+ (plus sign) makes a word required:

candy corn matches all foods with “candy” or “corn”.

+candy corn matches only foods that have “candy” and weighs the foods that have “corn” higher than those that don’t.

+candy +corn matches only foods that have both “candy” and “corn”.

Exclude words
- (minus sign) excludes foods having the word:

candy -chocolate matches “candy” that doesn’t have “chocolate”.

Match part of a word
* (asterisk) matches any non-whitespace:

*berry matches all foods with “berry” at the end of their name.

Signify precedence
() (parentheses) denote grouping:

pizza -(pepperoni sausage) matches all pizza with neither pepperoni nor sausage.
Unmatched parentheses will cause error during search.

Match words in a particular data element
: (colon) specifies that the word must be present in a particular data element:

description:skor only matches foods that have “skor” in their description.

additionalDescriptions:candy only matches foods that have “candy” in at least one of their additional descriptions.

commonNames:"hot dog" only matches foods that have the phrase “hot dog” in at least one of their common names.

scientificName:beta only matches foods that have “beta” in their scientific name.

Require All Words
When checked, the search will only return foods that contain all of the words that were entered in the search field.

Tips for Searching by Brand

The “suggestions” that appear when you start typing a brand owner name are based on a “starts with, fuzzy” search. “Starts with” means any words you type must appear at the start of the brand owner name (other than words such as “The”). “Fuzzy” means the search will match brand owners that are spelled slightly differently than the words you enter.

After typing all or part of a brand owner name, there are two ways to search:

Exact phrase
If you select a brand owner from the list of suggestions, foods are only found that have that exact brand owner name.
Contains
If you instead press enter, all foods are found whose brand owner name contains all the words you entered. For example, if you type Cola and press enter, foods manufactured either by “The Coca-Cola Company” or “Coca-Cola” are found.

Searching Within the API or Downloads

For more information about the API, go to the API Guide page.  For more information about Downloads, go to the Download Data page.

For more information about FoodData Central, go to the FAQ page.