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Food classification standardisation – The FoodEx2 system

The collection of accurate, comparable data is a prerequisite for informed risk assessment and risk management. EFSA has put in place a number of technical procedures and systems to ensure that as far as possible the data it receives is standardised.

The Standard Sample Description (SSD2) data model is a format for describing food and feed samples and analytical results that is used by EFSA’s data providers. It specifies the data elements and data structure of samples for chemical contaminants and residues as well as microbiological contaminants, zoonotic agents and antimicrobial resistance data in food, feed, animals, environmental samples and food contact materials.

SSD2 is complemented by FoodEx2, a standardised system for classifying and describing food.

FoodEx2 consists of descriptions of a large number of individual food items aggregated into food groups and broader food categories in a hierarchical parent-child relationship.

Central to the system is a core list of food items or generic food descriptions that represent the minimum level of detail needed for intake or exposure assessments. More detailed terms can be found on the “extended list”. A parent-child relationship exists between a core list food item and its related extended list food items. The terms of the core and extended list may be aggregated in different ways according to the needs of the different food safety domains.

The current version has seven hierarchies: five domain-specific and a general purpose one available for the users, and a service hierarchy for the management of the terminology. Facets are used to add further detail to the information provided by the food list term. Facets are collections of additional terms describing properties and aspects of foods from various perspectives.

EFSA has established a collaboration for the use of FoodEx2 with several institutions, including the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations and the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University.