There are different authoritative institutions that set the standards for different aspects of the food value chain, primarily EFSA, FAO, 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).

The WG will:

  • Survey the existing classifications managed by the domain authorities who agree to participate in the WG; survey and collect mapping work already done, identify essential missing mappings.
  • Design: decide which types of vocabularies are most appropriate for publishing the classifications (simple concept scheme, ontology…); agree on a methodology (quality criteria, curatorial pipelines…); choose a vocabulary editing platform.
  • Governance: decide on institutional responsibilities, ownership, and related technical issues like stable URIs, collaborative maintenance etc.
  • Publish the classifications and their mappings following Linked Data best practices.
  • In cases in which this has not been done already and where deemed essential, do remaining alignment work.
  • Provide basic vocabulary services to reuse terms and mappings in tools and portals.
  • If deemed useful, agree on which concepts are common and can be published as an authoritative common set of URIs and which concepts should remain in different specialized vocabularies.

The final objective of this work 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 will be launched in November 2017. A “soft launch” will take place on 6/11/2017 at the IC-FOODS conference to be held at UC Davis.


Proponent: UC Davis under the IC-FOODS project.

Key founding partners: FAO, EFSA, IFPRI, USDA, University of British Columbia Hsiao Lab, UK FSA, Tufts University, OBO Foundry, GACS team.

Prospective partners: UN Statistical Division? WHO, Danish Food Informatics.

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. You can express your interest by filling in this form.