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Food and Nutrition

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

Database:

Nutrients:

Nutrition Labelling:

Other Questions:

Database:

What is the Canadian Nutrient File (CNF)?

It is a computerized, bilingual food composition database containing average values for nutrients in foods available in Canada. Much of the data in the most current version of the CNF have been derived from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, up to and including SR22. This Canadian resource includes levels of fortification and regulatory standards specific to Canada, Canadian only foods, and, where appropriate, some brand name foods. Data in the CNF are recorded per 100g of the edible portion of the food. Conversion factors or multipliers to adjust this data to common household measures are provided.

How do I reference the CNF?

Search online for foods in the Health Canada, Canadian Nutrient File, 2010 version.

How often is the CNF updated?

The CNF is being updated continuously with information but new publications are released every two or three years. CNF on the web will be updated simultaneously with any release of the database files.

Who do I contact if I have questions about the CNF?

Please contact the Division responsible for the Canadian Nutrient File.

Why is the downloaded CNF different from the one that is on the web?

CNF on the web is an interactive tool that allows you to conduct a simple search for a food item and returns profiles showcasing the nutrient values. The downloadable CNF is the complete database file with more metadata describing source, quality and type of data. (This is not accompanied by software.)

How can I look at the data from the files I downloaded?

The Canadian Nutrient File (CNF) database is in fact comprised of 5 principal relational data files and 9 support files. Both English and French descriptors are included in the relational files. These files must be linked and viewed utilizing your own preferred database management software (Microsoft Access, Lotus Approach, etc.), which will allow you to form queries and generate custom reports. Refer to the File Structure document for more information on relationships between the files.

What should I do if errors in the CNF are found?

We are very much indebted to people who use the database and inform us of areas for concern on a regular basis. A variety of problems can occur including data entry errors, inaccuracies from nutrient data sources or even a glitch in our computer program application. In all cases, please contact us if you find an error so that we can correct the situation.

Is a paper copy of the CNF available?

Unfortunately there is no paper copy of the CNF available. It is a very large database with over 400,000 records and would be too cumbersome to produce as a paper copy. The Nutrient Value of Some Common Foods is a condensed version of the CNF containing nutrient information of 1000 foods. Obtain a copy of the booklet.

Nutrients:

Why don't the individual fatty acids or the fatty acid classes add up to the total lipid (fat)?

As the individual fatty acids are determined by a different analytical method than that of total fat, the sum of fatty acids is rarely exactly equal to the total fat value. Moreover, total fat may include other fatty acids, phospholipids or sterols not analyzed in that food. Values for total saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids may include individual fatty acids not listed in the CNF: therefore, the sum of their values may exceed the sum of the individual fatty acids listed.

I multiplied protein, fat and carbohydrate values by 4-9-4, but my energy value is different from that in the CNF?

These general factors are in fact, averages across all food groups. The more specific Atwater factors (specific to a particular food type) are based on the premise that there are ranges in the heats of combustion and coefficients of digestibility of different proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Energy values in the Canadian Nutrient File are calculated using these more specific Atwater factors.

Nutrition Labelling:

Can I use the CNF to make a Nutrition Facts table?

Information in the Canadian Nutrient File is generic rather than brand specific. It gives you the average nutritional information for a range of products and is not specific enough to be used on a Nutrition Facts table.

Where do I find information on Nutrition Labelling?

Please check the Nutrition Labelling home page.

Other Questions:

Why can't I find information on Kraft Dinner or other brand name products?

The CNF is a database containing nutrient information about generic foods not brand specific products. Also, Kraft Dinner is prepared using a recipe that can be varied substantially so one set of data would not describe the nutrient profile accurately.

Can I find information on organic food or genetically modified (GMO) foods in this database?

The studies on large enough, nationally representative samples of organic versus traditional foods are not available. GMO samples are not labelled differently from regular food, making sample collection difficult.

Who should I contact if I have questions related to diet and nutrition?

The mission of the Office of Nutrition Policy and Promotion (ONPP) is to promote the nutritional health and well being of Canadians by collaboratively defining, promoting and implementing evidence-based nutrition policies and standards. Please check the Office of Nutrition Policy and Promotion (ONPP) web site.

You could also check with your local public health unit.

Where can I find regulations for vitamin and mineral fortification of food?

Please check the Vitamins and Minerals page.

How can I add my food product to the CNF?

Data on all food items, especially generic, is welcome. Whether analytical or calculated, data should include all proximates including water and ash, as well as any nutrients that you may have. Values should be unrounded and unadjusted. It would also help to include individual values for each sample or the mean values, along with the number of samples and the standard deviation.

Where do I find information on Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs)?

Please check the Dietary Reference Intakes page.