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Dagobert Soergel
College of Information Studies, University of Maryland

Design of an Interlinked Food Description (IFD) Database. A New Food Description System. Expanded and revised from the initial Factored Food Vocabulary. Including a conceptual schema and procedures for the use of the new system.

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This document discusses the structure of a database of food descriptions that is a further development from FDA's Factored Food Vocabulary (FFV). The new system, called Interlinked Food Description (IFD) allows for recording more information, especially full ingredient indexing. It accommodates the complex structure of foods, where one food product is often an ingredient of a more complex food product. The concept of such a system is described in Soergel et al. 1988. This document discusses the design in more detail and lays the foundation for the construction of a prototype.

The first step in the process of making a decision on implementation of the new system is a test of feasibility and usefulness through development of a prototype. Only after such a test can decisions about large-scale implementation be made. Such decisions must weigh the expected benefits against cost, including the cost of reformatting large existing databases. These databases are not restricted to food databases but include other data bases that use the FFV.

When the test is completed, intermediate solutions should also be considered, such as doing full ingredient indexing but describing each ingredient using the current FFV rather than the more elaborate new method.

Any implementation can and must maintain compatibility with the present FFV in both directions. It must be possible to convert FFV food descriptions into the IFD format, preserving all information. (However, the converted descriptions will not contain all information that can be captured in an IFD system.) It must be possible to convert an IFD description into the FFV to enable parallel operation.

The development of the prototype requires the ideas and critical input from all participants in the evolving scheme for cooperation in the area of food data. It should be done under the aegis of the Steering Committee and the Technical Committee as discussed at the January meeting in Washington.

The following remarks concern the development of the prototype. The major part of the work done will be useful for further development if the approach proves to be feasible. Again, the experience gathered through the prototype is essential for intelligent decisions about the future system.
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