Description of food composition tables and databases and how to retrieve data
A food composition table or database is easier to use if the format allows easy access to the data available. Advances in information technology have led to more and more food composition tables being available in electronic form, progressively replacing the printed format. Printed food composition tables, although limited by physical proportions such as the size of both the written text and the printed table, continue to be popular in developing and underdeveloped countries. The printed word is seen as authoritative and only a limited level of literacy or knowledge on nutrition is necessary to be able to access the data.
Electronic data and access to them are more limited in remote areas in these countries, and a higher level of computer literacy and equipment is necessary, which is generally seen as a luxury and not a necessity.
However, electronic databases have many advan-tages over printed tables, including virtually unlim-ited capacity to store information, rapid access to individual data items, and easy sorting and manipula-tion of data for use in a wide range of calculations. However, the ease of accessing data in an electronic or a computerized database is dependent on the data-base access software and not only on the way in which data are stored. The development of relational data-bases has led to the opening up of possibilities to link different databases in regions and countries with each other. This has led to the identification of new chal-lenges such as food identification, compatibility of data, data interchange and data quality.