With information from the Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) new database, a person walking through the grocery store can use their phone to look up how many calories are in their cart.

Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture, announced the Branded Food Products Database on Sept. 16. The database is an open data partnership between USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, the International Life Sciences Institute North America (ILSI North America), GS1 US, 1WorldSync, and Label Insight. The database offers information on ingredients, nutrients, serving size, and servings per package for 500,000 products that can be found at restaurants and grocery stores. Consumer health and nutrition app providers can get access to the database and use the information to supplement their own data. The USDA press release announcing the database stated that this information is important to those with food allergies, diabetes, and kidney disease.

The Branded Food Products Database is an expansion of the USDA National Nutrient Database, which offered information on 8,800 branded foods and served as a data source for government agencies, researchers, and the food industry.

Vilsack also announced an update to the Global Agricultural Concept Scheme (GACS), a thesaurus containing 350,000 common agricultural data terms in 28 languages. USDA, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI) collaborated to create the GACS data set.

“There is so much data from the public and private sectors that can improve the health and quality of life for millions of people, if it can be made more readily available,” said Vilsack. “The partnership that produced the database is more proof that governments, nonprofits, businesses and researchers are capable of fostering scientific innovation by making life-changing data open and available to parents, health care professionals, scientists, businesses, and everyone interested. I look forward to being surprised by innovations we have not even thought of yet as a result of so much information becoming so reliable and accessible.”

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Eleanor Lamb
Eleanor Lamb
Eleanor Lamb is a Staff Reporter for MeriTalk covering Big Data, FITARA, Homeland Security, Education, Workforce Issues, and Civilian Agencies.