United States Department of Agriculture
Agricultural Research Service

USDA Food Composition Databases


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What are Searches?

A search request sends keyword queries and returns lists of foods which contain one or more of the keywords in the food description, scientific name, or commerical name fields. Search requests are a good way to locate NDB numbers (NDBno) for the reports API as well as for general discovery.

How it Works

There are no restrictions, other than common sense, on the keywords which can be searched. It's very easy to create paged browsing by using the total and offset (a zero-based start point) parameters. You may want to try the discovery application to get a feel for how searching works. You may limit your search results to a specific food group by specifying a food group id or a food group description in the fg parameter. (You may wish to use the list request to identify the food group id or description you wish to use.)


The only required parameter for a valid search request is your authentication key (api_key). The default sort order of results list is "relevance", i.e. how closely a food matches the query terms.

api_keyyn/aMust be a data.gov registered API key
qn""Search terms
dsn""Data source. Must be either 'Branded Food Products' or 'Standard Reference'
fgn""Food group ID
sortnrSort the results by food name (n) or by search relevance (r)
maxn50maximum rows to return
offsetn0beginning row in the result set to begin
format1nJSON results format: json or xml

1Format can also be sent in the request header: Content-Type: application/json or Content-Type:application/xml.

Response Elements

A search response consists of information about the results of the search such as the total hits matching the query and the starting and ending points in the results list, followed by a list of foods. Metadata for each food in the returned list includes the food's description (name) and NDBno.

listinformation about the items returned
qterms requested and used in the search
startbeginning item in the list
endlast item in the list
offsetbeginning offset into the results list for the items in the list requested
totaltotal # of items returned by the search
sortrequested sort order (r=relevance or n=name)
fgfood group filter
srStandard Release version of the data being reported
itemindividual items on the list
ndbno the food’s NDB Number
name the food’s name
group food group to which the food belongs
ds Data source: BL=Branded Food Products or SR=Standard Release


The examples below show how you might request a search for foods containing the word "butter" limiting the results to only those foods in the "Dairy and Egg Products" food group.


Browser: https://api.nal.usda.gov/ndb/search/?format=xml&q=butter&max=25&offset=0&api_key=DEMO_KEY
Curl: curl -H "Content-Type: application/xml" -d '<list><q>butter</q><max>25</max><offset>0</offset></list>' DEMO_KEY@api.nal.usda.gov/ndb/search


Browser: https://api.nal.usda.gov/ndb/search/?format=json&q=butter&sort=n&max=25&offset=0&api_key=DEMO_KEY
Curl: curl -H "Content-Type: application/json" -d '{"q":"butter","max":"25","offset":"0"}' DEMO_KEY@api.nal.usda.gov/ndb/search