Frequently Asked Questions

General questions

What is The New Zealand Food Composition Database?

The New Zealand Food Composition Database is a reference database with the primary role to provide reliable nutrient values for foods commonly consumed in New Zealand. Plant & Food Research and the Ministry of Health jointly own the New Zealand Food Composition Database, the most comprehensive collection of high-quality nutrient data for New Zealand foods. The Database is managed and maintained by dedicated Plant & Food Research staff.

The New Zealand Food Composition Database contains nutrient information for over 2,500 foods. The majority of foods have been analysed in New Zealand with a smaller percentage of data coming from other sources such as recipe calculations or by borrowing from other countries.

Who manages and runs the New Zealand Food Composition Database?

Subathira Sivakumaran, Zane Gilmore, Siva Sivakumaran and Kris Tham are the key people responsible for managing and maintaining of the database.

How is the New Zealand Food Composition Database data published?

Data from the New Zealand Food Composition Database is available through three different formats:

  1. Our online Search , which allows users to search the database of over 2,500 foods and produce a tailored report
  2.  New Zealand FOODfiles™, which includes data for up to 360 components for over 2,500 foods, downloadable as Microsoft Office Excel or tilde delimited ASCII text files
  3. The Concise New Zealand Food Composition Tables, which are printable tables for 36 components for over 1,000 foods in pdf or Microsoft Office Excel

All three formats contain the same core food and nutrient data.

Can I reproduce the nutrient data published in any of the New Zealand Food Composition Database formats?

Yes, you are free to copy and communicate data as long as you comply with the Terms of Use for the use of the New Zealand Food Composition Database and you correctly reference the database format as given below. The data must not be modified.

How do I reference the New Zealand Food Composition Database formats?

Suggested citations for New Zealand Food Composition Database formats
New Zealand New Zealand Food Composition Database Online Search
New Zealand Food Composition Database 2018. New Zealand Food Composition Database Online Search. The New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research Limited and Ministry of Health. https://www.foodcomposition.co.nz/search

New Zealand FOODfiles™ 2016 Version 01
New Zealand Food Composition Database 2017. New Zealand Food Composition Database: New Zealand FOODfiles™ 2016 Version 01. The New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research Limited and Ministry of Health. https://www.foodcomposition.co.nz/foodfiles

The Concise New Zealand Food Composition Tables, 12th Edition 2016
New Zealand Food Composition Database 2017. The Concise New Zealand Food Composition Tables, 12th Edition 2016. The New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research Limited and Ministry of Health. https://www.foodcomposition.co.nz/concise-tables

New Zealand FOODfiles™ 2016 Manual
New Zealand Food Composition Database 2017. New Zealand FOODfiles™ 2016 manual. The New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research Limited and Ministry of Health. https://www.foodcomposition.co.nz/foodfiles

About the data sets

What data are used for the New Zealand Food Composition Database?

All three New Zealand Food Composition Database formats use the same core data set – FOODfiles™ 2016 Version 01. The majority of the entries in the New Zealand Food Composition Database have been analysed in New Zealand with a smaller percentage of data coming from other sources, such as recipe calculations or by borrowing from other countries.

To generate the data, most foods are purchased through supermarkets and other retail channels, just as the consumer would purchase. The majority of the data were derived from analysis of a composite sample of varieties, regions, and/or seasons or, for processed products, similar products from different brands within a category. Samples are prepared for analysis, which is then conducted by accredited laboratories in New Zealand and Australia. Files are available that show details of the food sampling and source of the individual nutrient data. Details can be found in the New Zealand FOODfiles™ 2016 Manual [PDF 1.3 MB] and in selected files downloaded with New Zealand FOODfiles.

How is FOODfiles™ 2016 Version 01 different from FOODfiles™ 2014 Version 01?

FOODfiles™ 2016 incorporates the most recent (2014–16) analytical data for 198 foods and 17 foods for which data have been sourced from other databases. A total of 154 Food Records have been archived in the FOODfiles™ 2014 Version 01 and are not available in the FOODfiles™ 2016 Version 01. Most of these Food Records were replaced with new Food Records generated from the New Zealand Food Composition Database 2014–16 analytical programme. Errors identified in the FOODfiles™ 2014 Version 01 have been amended in the FOODfiles™ 2016 Version 01. Details of the updates appearing in FOODfiles™ 2016 can be found in the New Zealand FOODfiles™ 2016 Manual [PDF 1.3 MB].

What are the limitations of the data set?

Users need to be aware that the data do not represent absolute values due to natural variability and formulation changes by manufacturers. Data are provided are typically representative of foods available in New Zealand. The majority of the data were derived from analysis of a composite sample of varieties, regions, and/or seasons or for processed products similar product from different brands within a category. Details about the foods analysed (description and sampling details) can be found in the file ‘NAME.FT’ downloaded with New Zealand FOODfiles™.

What is the quality of the data?

The New Zealand Food Composition Database is unique in New Zealand with regards to data quality. Unlike some databases where information is obtained from labels only, the majority of values are based on New Zealand analysis (or recipe calculation based on New Zealand data). An enormous amount of effort goes into producing the data – everything from sampling and analytical plans to validation, all in accordance with international best practice.

Why don't the polyunsaturated, monounsaturated and saturated fatty acids add up to the total fat value?

The classes of fatty acids may not add up to the total fat value provided in the database because of differences in analytical methods. Lipid conversion factors for specific fats define the amount of fatty acid (in grams) per gram of fat. The lipid conversion factors used in the New Zealand Food Composition Database are available on request from Plant & Food Research ().

What are the differences of the various energy calculations used?

In FOODfiles™ 2016 Version 01, energy values are calculated according to standards issued by two authorities: FAO/INFOODS guidelines (FAO/INFOODS 2012) with and without inclusion of dietary fibre and Standard 1.2.8 (Food Standards Australia New Zealand 2013) with two means of including the carbohydrate contribution to energy. In addition the energy values can be expressed as either kilocalories (kcal) or kilojoules (kJ). The appropriate data for your use will depend on its purpose; for labelling purposes in Australia and New Zealand the FSANZ data should be used.

The calculations for various energy values are explained below.

Energy based on FAO/INFOODS

Energy based on FSANZ Standard 1.2.8

Further details can be found in the New Zealand FOODfiles™ 2016 Manual [PDF 1.3 MB].

How do I find out more about the analysis methods used for the data?

Further details about methodology and calculations can be found in the New Zealand FOODfiles™ 2016 Manual [PDF 1.3 MB]. 

How can I find out more about the source of each of the data points (e.g. analytical, calculated, borrowed, etc)?

Further details about the source of the data can be found in the file ‘Unabridged DATA.FT’ which is downloaded with New Zealand FOODfiles. The detailed descriptions of the codes are provided in the New Zealand FOODfiles™ 2016 Manual [PDF 1.3 MB].

Using the online Search

Does the online Search provide the most recent data available?

The dataset that is searched and extracted from for the web access format is the most up-to-date published data – FOODfiles™ 2016, Version 01. Note we will be making continuous improvements to the search functionality. This iteration of the search tool has been developed with a focus on the food industry and is based on FSANZ standards for food labelling. Future releases will be tailored to meet the needs of other user groups.

How are the percentage daily intakes calculated?

At present percent daily intakes presented in the search results are calculated using the reference values used for food labelling purposes as given by FSANZ. These are based on an average adult diet of 8700 kJ. Your individual requirements may be different depending on your life stage and gender group. It is important to note that these daily intakes are different from the Nutrient Reference Values (NRVs) for Australia and New Zealand published by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia (NHMRC). Future versions of the search tool will provide these more personalised daily intakes.

Can I use the online Search to produce a Nutrient Information Panel (NIP)?

The first format that a search delivers is a nutrient information panel. By selecting a nutrient claims report, you can also add addition nutrients to your NIP. For the NIP reports we have ensured data are presented using the FSANZ calculations (e.g. for energy). Please make sure you are familiar with FSANZ labelling requirements. FSANZ also provides a useful Nutrition Information User Guide.

Why can’t I find the food I want?

There are many more foods on the market in New Zealand than available in the New Zealand Food Composition Database. Our priority is to analyse the most commonly consumed foods but there are so many new and/or imported foods that we can’t analyse everything. You can try looking at other international food composition databases as provided in the Useful Links. In particular, the USDA database is very comprehensive and includes a large database of branded products, although just a limited number of nutrients are provided for these.

Why isn't the search function working for me?

Here are some troubleshooting ideas:

How do I access datasets for multiple foods?

The online online Search will allow you to compare up to three foods. If you want more than this, you can download:

  1. New Zealand FOODfiles™ (data for up to 360 components for over 2,500 foods) Microsoft Office Excel or tilde delimited ASCII text files
  2. The Concise New Zealand Food Composition Tables (printable tables for 36 components for over 1,000 foods) in PDF or Microsoft Office Excel

What does a ■ in a cell mean?

A ■ does not necessarily mean that a food does not contain that nutrient (i.e. a blank cell is not the same as a zero). There is a core set of nutrients that are always analysed, calculated or in some cases presumed zero. If this is the case, a value will be recorded. Other nutrients may not be analysed for every food. If appropriate data cannot be sourced in other ways then the cell will remain blank.

What does a blank cell in the %DI column mean?

Not all nutrients have established recommended daily intakes. If no recommendation is published in the FSANZ regulations/and or there is no nutrient composition data then the cell will be blank.

Why can't I find the food component I want?

At present the online search provides composition data for around 200 food components. These include the set of core nutrients that are routinely analysed for all foods. Some additional data (e.g. less common minerals and selected contaminants) is not provided via the online search but is available in the Unabridged data set of FOODfiles™ which you can download here.

Use for commercial products

Why are some of the data in the New Zealand Food Composition Database different from the information on product labels?

There is natural variability in all foods. The New Zealand Food Composition Database provides representative data founded on a sampling methodology to best represent the food in distribution through typical retail channels. For fresh produce the composition may vary by many factors including variety, season and source location. Composite (manufactured) product Nutritional Information Panels may be derived from calculating the composition from recipe components, or might be specifically analysed for their nutrient composition. Differences between New Zealand Food Composition Database values and the NIP may occur where the NIP is for an individual product whereas the New Zealand Food Composition Database is often a composite of similar products.

Can I use the data provided for a Nutrient Information Panel (NIP) in New Zealand?

Yes, in some cases you can. In the FSANZ regulations it states that there are a number of methods commonly used to derive food composition data to develop a nutrition information panel. Amongst these authorised sources is “food composition tables or databases”. The New Zealand Food Composition Database provides data that complies with FSANZ requirements. It is your responsibility to make sure your product matches the description provided in our database if you plan to use this data for a label declaration. For the NIP reports we have ensured data are presented using the FSANZ calculations (e.g. for energy). Please make sure you are familiar with FSANZ labelling requirements. FSANZ also provides a useful Nutrition Information User Guide.

How do I add my food product to the New Zealand Food Composition Database?

Individual product data can be included in the New Zealand Food Composition Database and provided on this website (www.foodcomposition.co.nz).

If you are thinking of making a nutrient content or health claim for your product and promoting the product on this basis, then having your product’s data in an internationally-recognised independent database like the New Zealand Food Composition Database will help underpin your promotional activities and provide a point of difference for your product.

To include a product in the New Zealand Food Composition Database, a complete composition and nutrient profile is required to be independently generated. To meet the international standard for food composition databases, the product is analysed by accredited laboratories in New Zealand and Australia using recognised protocols. To meet these standards, our scientists source the product from its normal distribution chain then organise the submission of product samples for analyses, validate the results, and add the product’s composition and nutrient data to the New Zealand Food Composition Database.

If you would like to discuss the inclusion of your product in the New Zealand Food Composition Database and on this website along with the cost of doing this please contact us at: .

Other

If I have a question that has not been answered here, who should I contact?

Please read the New Zealand FOODfiles™ 2016 Manual or contact us at: .

How do I provide feedback or report an issue?

If you wish to provide us with feedback on our search tool or report an issue please complete our online form: Submit here.