Structure and roles of INFOODS
INFOODS was officially established in 1984 based on the recommendations of an international group of 30 experts in nutrition convened in Bellagio, Italy in 1983. At the meeting, a detailed needs assessment was done on users’ needs, database content, sources of data, database organization and operation, and the general implementation and management structure of INFOODS. On each topic, recommendations were provided to assist the future implementation (Scrimshaw, S, N, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 65(Suppl), 1997; Rand and Young, AJCN 39, 1984). INFOODS is organized into several regional data centres with a regional coordinator and national members. In addition, a global coordinator oversees INFOODS activities.
INFOODS was established under the auspices of the United Nations University (UNU) with the active engagement of the International Nutrition Foundation (INF). Since 1990, FAO has taken an active role and since 1999 has served as the global coordinator. INFOODS is also one of the Task Forces of the International Union of Nutritional Sciences (IUNS)
The IUNS/UNU/INFOODS Task Force meets every second year at the International Food Data Conference (IFDC) to exchange information and guide planning of INFOODS activities. It replaced the Policy and Executive Committees. Members of the Task Force are regional data center coordinators as well as selected food composition experts (see actual list of members)
Reports of INFOODS to IUNS as one of their task forces
INFOODS is a Task Force of IUNS and as such provides regular reports to IUNS. The co-chairs of this IUNS Task Force are normally the global INFOODS coordinator (for 15 years Barbara Burlingame and since 2011 Ruth Charrondiere) and another person. For years, Suzanne Murphy served as co-chair and stepped down in 2015 after which Henrietta Ene-Obong took over this position.
Newsletter on INFOODS
Tasks of INFOODS coordinator
- coordinate INFOODS activities at global level;
- organize an administrative framework for INFOODS and various expert groups;
- establish and maintain an active network of regional data centers;
- oversee activities of regional data centres;
- stimulate national database programs (together with regional coordinators);
- serve as a generator of and repository for special international databases;
- maintain the INFOODS website and listserv (mailing list);
- represent INFOODS at international meetings and conferences;
- provide general and specific resources for persons / organizations;
- obtain funding for selected activities;
- enhance capacity building; and
- co-organize the International Food Data Conferences (IFDC).
Tasks of Regional Data centre coordinator
- establish, maintain and develop regional food composition database networks and a regional steering committee;
- identify and support country centres;
- work with countries in the region to improve the quality and availability of food composition data in their country;
- encourage interchange among visiting postgraduates and researchers from developed and developing countries;
- organize training on food composition toimprove the national capacities of the different countries in generating, compiling and using food composition data. This includes identifying resource persons such as teachers and trainers;
- create training centres and develop training courses, serve as a resource for training of trainers and help countries organize courses;
- draft funding proposals and submit them together with the national INFOODS focal points to donor agencies;
- assist countries to raise their profile on food composition and biodiversity so that governments will support and fund these activities as part of their regular programme activity;
- present reports of the regional data centre in national, regional and international conferences and to propose food composition-related sessions to conference organizers;
- organize regional activities on food composition, e.g. regional food composition tables, regional proficiency testing, regional projects, regional data generation;
- organize and/or provide inputs into INFOODS guidelines and databases from the region;
- stimulate national coordinators to adhere to INFOODS standards and guidelines and to utilize and promote INFOODS products and tools;
- stimulate national coordinators to advocate food composition activities;
- compile a list of regional experts, laboratories for chemical analysis of nutrients and phyto-chemicals; and
- serve as a centre for data compilation and dissemination
Tasks of National coordinators and partners
- establish national steering committees for food composition;
- improve the quality and availability of food composition data within country;
- prepare and maintain inventories of possible national institutions which could contribute to the food database according to national needs, competence, specialization and resources;
- broaden the network and exchange of information among national institutions;
- ensure a critical mass of adequately trained professionals through organizing training opportunities on food composition to improve the national capacities in generating, compiling and using food composition data;
- draft funding proposals and submit them together to donor agencies;
- raise the profile on food composition and biodiversity so that their governments will support and fund these activities as part of their regular programme activity;
- present national reports and data in national, regional and international conferences and to propose food composition-related sessions to conference organizers;
- organize national activities on food composition, e.g. a national food composition table, participation on regional or international proficiency testing and other projects;
- provide inputs into regional and international INFOODS activities, e.g. development of guidelines or databases;
- prepare and maintain inventories of foods to be analyzed - priorities based on dietary pattern, nutrition/health profile;
- adopt INFOODS standards and guidelines or other international guidelines and standards where INFOODS have none;
- stimulate the establishment of a reference laboratory and a network of satellite laboratories;
- stimulate the accreditation of laboratories; and
- evaluate the need for integrating national legislation for food safety, food quality, food composition, and food labeling.
Selection of coordinators
- The INFOODS coordinator is selected by the guiding bodies
- The regional data centre coordinators (also called president in some regions) are elected by the members of the country representatives of that regional data centre. Although there is no fixed rule, some regional data centres elect the regional data centre coordinators for a fixed number of years (i.e. 3 years in LATINFOODS) and a vice-president who in 3 years will become the next regional coordinator. This election normally takes place during a regional INFOODS meeting. The coordinator could also be elected via e-mail if no regional INFOODS meeting is planned.
- The national coordinators are selected by the country representatives and the regional coordinator of that regional data centre.
Initially, it was intended that coordinators would be appointed for three years. In practice, there is no limit of duration for a coordinator, except for LATINFOODS. Either he/she is re-elected or stays until decided otherwise by the coordinator, countries and/or INFOODS. A rotation policy would however be useful.