The Information on the chemical composition of foods is based on the characterization of nutritional problems, the preparation of legislation and policies on nutrition and the study of the relationship between diet and health or illness of individuals and populations.
The Department of Food and Nutrition (DAN) develops the following activities on the Food Composition :
• The food composition as an important indicator to monitoring the quality of fresh and processed foods.
• The knowledge of the caloric value and nutritional properties of foodstuffs to support consumers in making informed food choices toward healthy eating goals.
• The development of surveillance activities related to food composition permit the assessment of nutritional diets and meets the specifications.
• The preparation of Nutrition Labelling or confirmation of the veracity of nutritional information declared on the label.
• The data compilation that should not be considered an isolated practice but as an integral part in establishing relationships between diet and health.
• The Food Metrology has been developed with great impact in the area of food composition where the use of reference materials and traceability to SI units are requirements to analytical data to generate nutrient values. DAN articulates its analytical capabilities for the development and subsequent production of reference materials that ensure the reliability of analytical data to be included in the database of food composition.
In Portugal, the National Health Institute Doutor Ricardo Jorge (INSA), being aware that food is one of the determining factors in health, developed from its beginnings its activity in the area of food composition. Gonçalves Ferreira, initiated the systematization on food composition in the final decade of years 30 and published, in 1948, the first laboratory work, on the chemical composition and feeding value of traditional cheeses. This study culminated later with the publication of the first Portuguese Food Composition Table in 1961.
Portuguese Food Composition Table (TCA)
The current Food Composition Table (TCA), is a national reference document for the composition of foods consumed in Portugal, and brings together information about 42 content components/nutrients (energy, macro-constituents, cholesterol, fatty acids, vitamins and minerals) in 962 foods (raw, cooked and processed).
The TCA was published in 2006 in book format and made available online in 2010, on the INSA website (see here).
The contents regarding analytical constituents presented at TCA had compiled data from various sources such as, analytical studies carried out by the laboratories of DAN and by the Fisheries Research Institute and Mar (IPIMAR), scientific publications, other tables and, for some processed foods, information removed from respective labels.
Actually several national and european projects are being developed at DAN, which aims included the production of nutritional data of high quality, obtained by laboratorial analysis of food and traditional recipes. These studies aim to evaluate not only the nutritional quality of individual foods, composite or recipes, as to study possible properties of some nutrients including bioactive compounds in order to promote the public health and to prevent chronic diseases.
With the goal to disseminate data on the chemical composition of some fishery products more consumed in Portugal, obtained from the laboratories of do Departamento de Inovação Tecnológica e Valorização dos Produtos da Pesca do IPIMAR (INIAP) e do Centro de Segurança Alimentar e Nutrição do Instituto Nacional de Saúde Doutor Ricardo Jorge, one document was recently published on the “ Composition and Nutritional Value of fishery products more consumed in Portugal".
PortFIR – Portuguese Food Information Resource
The QREN SAMA 7988 project lead to the creation , in 2008, of the PortFIR, that is a program for implementation of Portuguese excellence networks of food safety and nutrition, to ensure the attributes of the National Health Institute, in order to collaborate in epidemiologic surveillance of transmissible and not transmissible diseases activities and to develop or validate observatory tools in health in the area of information systems, ensuring the production and dissemination of statistical data in public health, and promoting the adequate technical studies.
Within this goal, The Portuguese Network on Food Composition was created with the aims to gather and compiled data provided by the stakeholders along the food chain, ensuring its permanent actualization of the Food Composition Table.
The project “Updated food composition database for nutrient intake” aims to ensure the collection, compilation and transmission of the analytical data related to composition, including food contaminants and other chemical food and feed compounds to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).