Power Lunch: Food Processors Can Help Create a Database for Food Microbes

Oct. 31, 2023
The Global Branded Food Products Database invites food processors to contribute health data on yogurt cultures and other live microbes.

Want to get in on the ground floor of new health data on yogurt and other live microbes?

The partners behind the USDA Global Branded Food Products Database have for the first time made it possible for food manufacturers to contribute to the database information on live microbes in the foods and beverages they produce, creating the opportunity to advance new health research. With this new knowledge, a new frontier may open, alerting us to the health promise of consuming foods with beneficial live microbes.

Microbes in food include bacteria and yeasts, and their presence can depend on the amount of processing the food has undergone or specific strains of bacteria that have been added. The understanding that there is a link between consumption of live, safe microbes and positive health outcomes comes from observational and randomized controlled trials that support some cardiovascular, gastrointestinal and metabolic health benefits.

Enough of these observational studies have accumulated now that scholars are ready to collect more data and take the field to the next level.

With help from food manufacturers, researchers may be able to evaluate whether a recommended intake level for the consumption of safe, live microbes from foods — such as yogurts — is supported by science. These data will allow for assessments of whether intake of live microbes can be causally linked to specific health benefits at the population level. For policymakers and health experts, this information could be valuable in understanding what amounts of daily intake impact health and why.

The USDA Global Branded Food Products Database enhances USDA FoodData Central with ingredient and nutrition composition data on branded and private label (i.e., store brand) foods provided voluntarily by the food industry. The impact of industry providing these data is substantial; it means these data are available to inform agricultural and food policy decisions by federal agencies and support research and regulatory queries by the public and private sectors.

[The partners in this public-private partnership are USDA, IAFNS, GS1 US, 1WorldSync, NielsenIQ Label Insight, and the University of Maryland. For more information on the USDA Global Branded Food Products Database, visit https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/.]

The project is part of IAFNS’ ongoing programs that catalyze new science relevant to food safety and nutrition. While some scientists have hypothesized that consuming live microbes may be beneficial to health, understanding this relationship and the potential benefit of a recommended intake range requires a systematic approach. This approach includes evaluation of existing evidence, addressing gaps and placing knowledge within a data framework.

As part of this systematic approach, the initial steps are to map the scientific literature to determine the breadth of evidence available to support knowledge on live microbe intake and health outcomes. Additionally, as live microbes from fermented foods are especially common in the Korean diet, it is valuable to also investigate a Korean health and nutrition database. The importance of understanding the data, including international data, advances research on this topic.

Please consider adding live microbe data to get us to the next level. Live microbe data can be submitted to the USDA Global Branded Food Products Database via 1WorldSync. For more information on IAFNS’s work on live microbes and health, contact [email protected].

About the Author

Wendelyn Jones | PhD

Dr. Wendelyn Jones is Executive Director of the Institute for the Advancement of Food and Nutrition Sciences (iafns.org). She has a passion for bringing together science and society, drawing from her global experiences working across chemical, agricultural, food, and health sectors. She applies her PhD in life sciences to extend IAFNS’ contribution to, and impact within, diverse scientific and health communities.

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