The first edition of this book was used extensively in training food composition analysts and compilers around the world, commencing with the first Food Composition training course held in Wageningen, the Netherlands, in October 1992. Five courses have been held subsequently in Wageningen and the course has also been transferred to developing regions including one each in Chile for LATINFOODS countries, Jamaica for CARICOMFOODS countries, Thailand for ASEANFOODS and SAARCFOODS countries, and three in South Africa for the countries of ECSAFOODS.
The use of the book in the United Nations University/INFOODS training courses revealed that changes were required to update the text and figures, in particular to make the book more user-friendly on an international basis. Increasingly, as time went by, the huge explosion in methods of analysis meant that the book was becoming rapidly out-of-date. Further, the establishment of food composition programmes around the world increased the pool of experience available. However, revision was not feasible as a commercial project. Although some tertiary courses, largely in the industrialized countries, were able to draw on the book in teaching, the prohibitive cost of the first edition meant that purchases of the book were mainly for libraries rather than by individuals or for local food composition programmes. When the first edition became out of print, the copyright reverted to the original authors.
In 2001, Dr Barbara Burlingame, the Director of INFOODS (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations [FAO]), proposed a rescue package – which was taken up eagerly by the authors. The proposal was for the authors to revise and update the first edition in the light of the comments of trainees in the course over the previous decade, and to incorporate improved methods of analysis (while not excluding those older methods, which were still being used satisfactorily in those parts of the world where access to sophisticated and costly instrumentation was limited). It was also proposed that FAO make the print edition of the book available at an affordable price, oversee its translation into the main languages of the United Nations Organizations and, further, place the book on the FAO Web site for worldwide access. The authors were pleased to accept this proposal since the original concept of the book had always been wide availability at a price that placed it within the reach of students and workers, particularly those in developing countries.
The second edition was largely prepared by means of electronic communication interspersed with occasional face-to-face meetings to establish the roles of the authors and FAO and identify the new or revised material to include. David Southgate worked from a very large literature database compiled by Heather Greenfield for the period 1990 to the present, together with his unparalleled experience in the compilation of the United Kingdom tables and discussions with trainees in courses held in the Netherlands and other parts of the world, to collate the first comprehensive draft of the revised edition, which included particular sections drafted by Heather Greenfield and inputs from members of the INFOODS mailing list.
A meeting of the authors with Barbara Burlingame in Norwich, United Kingdom, made possible an extensive review of the text, particularly to incorporate elements required by FAO. The draft chapters were reviewed by experts and the final version for publication was prepared through a long process of careful checking and revision conducted by Heather Greenfield, Barbara Burlingame and Ruth Charrondiere (FAO), working in collaboration by e-mail correspondence and, where possible, consultation with all the original sources of information. Barbara Burlingame oversaw the preparation of the final text for publication in various formats at FAO.
As in the first edition, the personal perspectives and prejudices of the authors doubtless show through. We believe that there is no a priori method of obtaining compositional data without analysis. The book recognizes that analytical facilities and resources are limited in virtually all countries and that, at the same time, there is a large amount of compositional data in the literature, in both published and unpublished sources and in other databases. It is essential to make proper use of this material. The book therefore devotes a considerable amount of attention to the evaluation of this published material to ensure that it is of the appropriate quality to use in combination with directly analysed values. We trust that this book, used in combination with other INFOODS texts, will be a key to the improved quality of food composition data worldwide.