There are different authoritative institutions that set the standards for different aspects of the food value chain, primarily FAO, EFSA, WHO, WTO, USDA, FDA.
While these institutions all have a specific mandate and look at food from slightly different angles (human health / food safety, food trade, agronomy, food in the agricultural value chain), in their work they all need to refer to common concepts like food products types, food sources, food components, organisms… And indeed over the last decades each institution has developed and maintained official classifications to be used in their respective area of authority.
Many of these classifications cover areas of common interest, like food product types, product / commodity coding systems, food composition.
Although there is collaboration between these institutions and reciprocal awareness of each other’s work, at the moment there isn’t agreement on a shared set of terms even for common aspects of the terminology, nor any agreed and formalized alignment between these classifications.
The consequence is that organizations, companies and government bodies use different classifications depending on the most relevant authority they have to comply with, or in some cases have to use more than one to comply with different authorities, or when there are no normative constraints, they use their own. This makes it very difficult:
for all actors in the food value chain, including the intermediaries that create hardware and software for them, to identify the relevant classifications, integrate them and keep them up to date; and
to integrate food value chain data across geographic regions and across different parts of the value chain (for instance, ideally, in a global distributed food tracking system).
For this reason, a number of GODAN partners are joining efforts in a new GODAN Working Group on “Publication and Alignment of Authoritative Vocabularies for Food”. The final objective of this WG is to provide a set of semantically interlinked URIs for key food product concepts as an infrastructural component that will facilitate the development of both software for actors in the food value chain and added-value integrated services that need to track food products.
The WG, proposed by UC Davis under the IC3-FOODS project, has as key founding members teams from FAO, EFSA, IFPRI, USDA, University of British Columbia Hsiao Lab, OBO Foundry and is eliciting interest from other prospective partners like UN Statistical Division, WHO, the GACS team, Danish Food Informatics. Beyond the founding members, participation in this WG is open to everyone who has an interest in seeing key food classifications being published, interlinked and easily reusable and can effectively contribute to this achievement.
A “soft launch” of the WG will take place on 6/11/2017 at the IC-FOODS conference to be held at UC Davis.
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