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Evaluation of the FoodEx, the food classification system applied to the development of the EFSA Comprehensive European Food Consumption Database

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The existing food description and classification systems present several drawbacks when assessing exposure to hazardous chemicals. To tackle this issue, the Data Collection and Exposure Unit (DATEX) of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) developed a new system called FoodEx. It builds on different food description and classification systems and its main objective is to facilitate the assessment of dietary exposure to hazardous chemicals by allowing accurate matching of the datasets on chemical occurrence and food consumption. At the end of 2008, EFSA started a project aimed at establishing the “EFSA Comprehensive European Food Consumption Database”. FoodEx was used, within this project, to codify all foods and beverages present in the food consumption database provided by 20 Member States and collected from 22 different national dietary surveys. The main objective of this document is to present the outcome of using FoodEx for the harmonised classification of the food consumption data included in the Comprehensive Database. Based on this evaluation, suggestions for improvements of FoodEx are proposed. The present Scientific Report is intended as well to provide input to the Working Group on “Development of a Food Classification and Description System for exposure assessment” for the development of a uniformed food classification and description system. The FoodEx system proved to be user friendly and flexible enough in most situations to interface with national food classification systems. Differences in the classification systems used within the national dietary surveys have been identified. However, findings reported in the present document demonstrate that all data providers were able to classify correctly the large majority of their food items at least at the 2nd level of the FoodEx. A clear recommendation to the above mentioned Working Group is the development of a classification and description system including facets as further descriptors.

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