This publication brings together in a single document most of the analytical data available on the nutrient content of foods in Africa. While data were available on certain nutrients of some of the foods selected for inclusion, data for most of those selected were not only incomplete, but also analyses did not refer to comparable samples. In addition, detailed information on analytical methods used, variety, maturity, time of harvest, length of storage or exposure in the market, part of sample analyzed, part considered inedible, or other factors which would influence nutrient content, are usually not fully provided by laboratories. This is particularly true for those foods which undergo some processing, such as cereals and their products.
Of the total 1,624 items selected for the fourteen food groups of the entire food table, aproximately 65 percent have data on proximate composition, 50 percent of minerals, 25 percent on B-vitamins, and only a few have data on tryptophan. Of the total 1,071 items of edible plants, only 25 percent have data on ascorbic acid and 25 percent on vitamin A; and of the total 439 items of animal origin, less than 10 percent have data on vitamin A. (See Appendix 7).
There are many foods for which nutrient analyses have not been completed. This fact should call attention to the immediate need for more analytical and biochemical investigation of foods used in Africa. However, this table can provide basic and useful data for use by those involved in the evaluation and improvement of the diets consumed in Africa. Local foods which are found to be particularly rich in specific nutrients in which African diets are deficient can be brought to the attention of local people with the view of encouraging increased production and consumption.
While the immediate need is for more complete analytical data on the composition of the indigenous foods, with particular emphasis on vitamins and minerals, consideration should be given to other studies relating to the coefficient of digestibility of the commonly used foods.
As the analytical information on proximate composition, minerals, and vitamins becomes complete, consideration should be given to the need for carring out analyses for amino acids and fatty acids. In addition, since protein adequacy depends on both protein quantity and quality, studies should be made of the biological value and utilization of protein in locally grown cereals, grains, legumes, seeds and nuts.
Laboratories undertaking these projects are encouraged to utilize standardized analytical procedures, and to provide adequate, detailed information on the food and its condition at the time of analysis. The “Suggested Guideline for Sampling, Identification and Analytical Procedures for Foods” was prepared and distributed by the Nutrition Program, U. S. Depart ment of Health, Education, and Welfare, during the preparation of the Food Composition Table for Use in Africa. This publication provides information on both sample collections and food analytical procedures.
Nutritionists making food consumption surveys and scientists analyzing foods are also advised to identify systematically and scientifically the food products in terms of accepted scientific nomenclature. Cooperative efforts will be needed in order to determine the variation in a given food when produced under varying local conditions. Continuous effort should be made to collect and to analyze new food composition data in order to fill in the gaps in the food composition table.
It would be appreciated if anyone having additional information on African foods, or those contemplating developing more information, would communicate with the Food Consumption and Planning Branch, Nutrition Division, FAO, Rome, or with the Nutrition Program, National Center for Chronic Disease Control, U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, Bethesda, Maryland 20014, U. S. A.