Calculating Nutrient Values for Brand Name Food Products

For most multi-ingredient brand name food products, analytic information regarding composition for the full complement of nutrients in the NCC Food and Nutrient Database is lacking. To cope with this issue, NCC has developed a procedure for calculating the nutrient composition of these food items by creating formulations (recipes). The formulations are composed of foods in the database for which nutrient composition values are known. Consequently, the nutrient composition of a brand name product may be readily calculated by summing the nutrient composition of the ingredients in its formulation.


How is a formulation created? The product ingredient statement is relied on to determine the specific ingredients in the product. To determine the amount of each ingredient, an NCC developed program called the NCC Food Calculation Program is utilized. This program, using a linear optimization algorithm, estimates the amount of each ingredient needed to produce a product with a nutrient profile close to that indicated on the Nutrition Facts panel. Because the ingredient statement is supposed to list ingredients in descending order of content in the product, the linear optimization algorithm in the NCC Food Calculation Program places this constraint on solutions derived for ingredient amounts. Want to know more about the NCC Food Calculation program? Read Accuracy and Efficiency of Estimating Nutrient Values in Commercial Food Products using Mathematical Optimization.


Nutrient values in the NCC Food and Nutrient Database for brand name foods do not precisely match the information on product Nutrition Facts panels for a number of reasons. One reason is that values in the database are not rounded to the nearest whole number as is allowed on the Nutrition Facts panel. Another reason is that the database values may not reflect recent changes in the marketplace. For example, if General Mills reformulates Cheerios® today, the nutrient values in the current version of the database may no longer match those on the product label. Another potential reason for discrepancies relates to use of the nutrient composition of representative foods for some brand name product categories for which the nutrient composition across brands is similar. As an example, although the database includes several brands of pretzel twists, the nutrient values assigned to each brand are based on a representative pretzel twist.