Harmonised information exchange between decentralised food composition database systems

Heikki Pakkala, Tue Christensen, Ignacio Martínez de Victoria, Karl Presser, Agnes Kadvan

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Background/Objectives: The main aim of the European Food Information Resource (EuroFIR) project is to develop and disseminate a comprehensive, coherent and validated data bank for the distribution of food composition data (FCD). This can only be accomplished by harmonising food description and data documentation and by the use of standardised thesauri. Subjects/Methods: The data bank is implemented through a network of local FCD storages (usually national) under the control and responsibility of the local (national) EuroFIR partner. Results: The implementation of the system based on the EuroFIR specifications is under development. The data interchange happens through the EuroFIR Web Services interface, allowing the partners to implement their system using methods and software suitable for the local computer environment. The implementation uses common international standards, such as Simple Object Access Protocol, Web Service Description Language and Extensible Markup Language (XML). A specifically constructed EuroFIR search facility (eSearch) was designed for end users. The EuroFIR eSearch facility compiles queries using a specifically designed Food Data Query Language and sends a request to those network nodes linked to the EuroFIR Web Services that will most likely have the requested information. The retrieved FCD are compiled into a specifically designed data interchange format (the EuroFIR Food Data Transport Package) in XML, which is sent back to the EuroFIR eSearch facility as the query response. The same request–response operation happens in all the nodes that have been selected in the EuroFIR eSearch facility for a certain task. Finally, the FCD are combined by the EuroFIR eSearch facility and delivered to the food compiler. Conclusions: The implementation of FCD interchange using decentralised computer systems instead of traditional data-centre models has several advantages. First of all, the local partners have more control over their FCD, which will increase commitment and improve quality. Second, a multicentred solution is more economically viable than the creation of a centralised data bank, because of the lack of national political support for multinational systems.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number64
Pages (from-to)S58-S63
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • EuroFIR
  • Distributed databases
  • Food composition
  • Web service
  • Information systems


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