A Partnership for Public Health: Branded Foods Products Database
Frequently Asked Questions
A Presidential memo in 2011 directed agencies to develop public-private partnerships in areas of importance to the agency's mission. In response, Dr. Catherine Woteki, Undersecretary and Chief Science Officer of the USDA, developed multiple initiatives, including one to augment the USDA National Nutrient Database with compositional data on branded food products. Accordingly, USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the ATIP Foundation (Agricultural Technology Innovation Partnership), and the International Life Science Institute (ILSI) North America have established this Public-Private Partnership to enhance the public’s health, which is significantly dependent on diet, through increased knowledge of the nutritional content of the nation’s food supply. This will be accomplished by obtaining comprehensive food composition data from the food manufacturers and making it available to government, industry, the scientific community and the general public through an enhanced National Nutrient Database, developed and maintained by the USDA-ARS Nutrient Data Laboratory in Beltsville, MD. This is a timely addition to the database that should benefit those with interest in the use of the database and provide new information to benefit the health of the public.
The composition of the food supply and consumer dietary choices are key inputs for agricultural and food policy decisions. This requires comprehensive data, but the volume and fluidity of branded food products in the U.S. marketplace are key challenges to the robustness of such data. Expertise to compile brand data, and private sector engagement in providing it, as well as broad-based constituent funding are necessary to maximize content and provide timely information for nutrition, agricultural and diet-related health policy. This is best pursued through a public-private partnership that is transparent and inclusive of all facets of the diverse food system in North America. This Public-Private Partnership, conducted under the auspices of ILSI North America, ATIP Foundation, and USDA-ARS, also will allow for discussions on the nature and submission of data that may not be possible with direct USDA-industry agreements.
The proposed addition of branded food compositional data to the USDA National Nutrient Database is an essential tool for developing research strategies and public policy regarding food and nutrition and will create a database more truly reflective of the breadth and depth of the nation’s food supply. Various sectors of the research community and the food and health care industries will find this database valuable. For example, this will enhance the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) by more accurately characterizing food selection and nutrient intakes for Americans; nutrition software developers can produce enhanced software so that dietitians will be able to better tailor diets to nutritional needs; medical researchers will be able to better link dietary intakes to measures of chronic diseases; policy making bodies will be able to develop better guidelines that will promote public health; and food manufacturers could use this to improve product formulations.
The USDA National Nutrient Database is widely recognized as the gold standard for food compositional data. All other databases including proprietary databases build from the USDA National Nutrient Database. The Public-Private Partnership data will augment this database while retaining the comprehensive quality but enhanced by vastly greater quantity and timely data submissions. The intent of the enhanced database is to foster public health by delivering comprehensive and publicly available information on the composition of foods. Proprietary databases are encouraged to incorporate these data into their own software products. Nutrition software developers will benefit from having access to branded data that previously was cumbersome to obtain. In addition, this database will be expandable (e.g., food group information on branded foods and branded restaurant food products) and scalable to manage a large volume of date-stamped branded product information allowing real-time linkage of food intake and nutrient composition to dietary patterns recommendations.
The partnership is between USDA-ARS, ATIP Foundation and ILSI North America. A 15-member Steering Committee includes two representatives and four member scientists of ILSI North America, five representatives of the ATIP Foundation, and four members of USDA ARS. Co-chairs of the Steering Committee are from ILSI North America and the ATIP Foundation. An Operations and Management Group was established to function principally in proposing infrastructure, governance and the day-to-day management and operations of the Partnership, subject to final approval by the Steering Committee. A Criteria Group has been established with expertise in nutrient databases from the public and private sectors. This group will define the criteria for data submission and inclusion in the enhanced National Nutrient Database. The Data Quality Subgroup is a subset of the Criteria Group and was formed to establish the data quality system for the submission of data to the Partnership. The IT Infrastructure Group was formed to identify options for the infrastructure of the enhanced USDA National Nutrient Database. A Communications Group also has been established by the Steering Committee to lead development of communications materials and recruitment for participants in the Public-Private Partnership.
The Public-Private Partnership has moved from the Development Phase into the Implementation Phase of the project. Outreach is just beginning on identifying sustaining supporters who will have a role in participating in discussions on the content of the “Branded Food Products Database for Public Health”. Interested parties should contact the ATIP Foundation for further discussion at www.atipfoundation.com
The ATIP Foundation, LLC is a 501(c)(3) non-profit entity with its corporate office in Arlington, Texas and member offices in eight states. It is governed by members comprised of technology based economic development entities that serve as Federal Partnership Intermediaries to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Foundation engages with the USDA through USDA’s 7-member Liaison Committee consisting of the four Deputy Administrators of ARS National Programs, the Assistant Administrator for Technology Transfer, a representative of the eight ARS Area Directors, and the USDA’s Chief Scientist and Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics. The ATIP Foundation members include the California Association for Local Economic Development; the Center for Innovation at Arlington, LLC (Texas); the Center for Innovative Food Technology (CIFT) in Toledo, Ohio; the Georgia Research Alliance, Inc.; Innovate Mississippi; the Kansas Bioscience Authority; Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO); and the Wisconsin Security Research Consortium.
ILSI North America
The North American branch of the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI North America) is a public, non-profit scientific foundation that advances the understanding and application of science related to the nutritional quality and safety of the food supply. The organization carries out its mission by sponsoring research programs, professional and educational programs and workshops, seminars, and publications, as well as providing a neutral forum for government, academic, and industry scientists to discuss and resolve scientific issues of common concern for the well-being of the general public. ILSI North America's programs are supported primarily by its industry membership.
Founded in 1862, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is the U.S. federal executive department that provides leadership on food, agriculture, natural resources, rural development, nutrition, and related issues based on sound public policy, the best available science, and efficient management. The USDA funds/manages many internal and external programs that conduct research, set public policy and disseminate information regarding food, nutrition, healthy eating and the relationship between agricultural production and optimal nutrition.