Advisory Council on Food and Environmental Hygiene

Reference Information System for Nutritional Values of Food

Purpose

This paper informs Members of the establishment of a web-based reference information system for nutritional values of food by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD), and sets out the main features of the system.

Background

Nutrients are essential for the growth of human body as well as the maintenance of health. In order to provide our community with an easily accessible and reliable channel to identify the functions of various nutrients and the nutritional content of individual food items, we have pledged in the Policy Address 2000 that a reference information system for nutritional values of food would be established in 2001. The system aims to help the public to make healthy food choices and to maintain balanced diets through enhancing their awareness of the nutritional values of the food items they consume.

The reference information system, known as the Nutrient Information Inquiry System (NIIS), is a web-based searchable database containing nutritional information of some 1000 food items that are commonly consumed by the local community. NIIS will be uploaded onto the website of FEHD, thus making the system accessible to the public any time.

Main Features of the Nutrient Information Inquiry System (NIIS)

As the target users of NIIS include the public, the food trade and other interested parties, our aim is to develop a comprehensive and user-friendly system in order to cater for the needs of different users. Careful consideration has been given to the data to be included in the system and the ways in which the selected data is to be presented. We have decided that the main features of NIIS should be as follows:-

(1) Range of Food Items

NIIS contains information on the nutritional content of some 1000 food items that are commonly consumed by the local community. The list of food items compiled is based on information gathered from a number of sources, including the findings of our retail sale checks, food surveillance data, trade statistics, etc. All food items are categorised into 25 food groups in the database. Each food group is further divided into a number of food subgroups. For example, chicken wing is classified as "poultry" and "chicken" under the food group and food subgroup respectively. Users may search for the nutritional data of a particular food item by entering a keyword that best describes the food item in the search box, or by clicking the name of the food group or subgroup to which the food item belongs. A list of the 25 food groups with examples of food items in respective food groups is at Annex.

(2) Types of Nutrients

NIIS provides nutritional information of individual food items on eight parameters, namely, energy, protein, carbohydrate, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium and dietary fibre. The system contains information about the functions, reference daily intake and major food sources of these eight types of nutrients in addition to setting out the nutritional values of individual food items. The sources of the data include the Institute of Nutrition and Food Hygiene of the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine, and the Nutrient Data Laboratory of the United States Department of Agriculture.

(3) User-friendly Features of the System

To facilitate utilization of the system, nutrient information in the NIIS is presented in an organised and easily understood manner with clear graphic illustration. Users may follow the instructions in the user guide to search for and retrieve data from the system. Links to related websites are also created to enable users to search for additional information from other sources.

Future Enhancement of NIIS

FEHD will set up a Food Research Laboratory in 2001 for carrying out analysis of nutritional values of local indigenous food items such as dim sum and wanton noodles. The results of the analysis will be used to enrich the content of NIIS. We will review the contents and format of the system from time to time and to expand, update and modify the database where appropriate.

Publicity

We intend to issue a press statement to announce the launch of NIIS on 15 September 2001. Promotional materials including bookmarks and user guides will be distributed through the offices of FEHD and Home Affairs Department. We will also publicize the system through FEHD's publication such as the Food Safety Bulletin.

Food and Environmental Hygiene Department
August 2001

 

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