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LanguaL™  -  the International Framework for Food Description

 Updated 2019-06-10

LanguaL™ is a Food Description Thesaurus

LanguaL™ stands for "Langua aLimentaria" or "language of food". It is an automated method for describing, capturing and retrieving data about food. The work on LanguaL™ was started in the late 1970's by the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) of the United States Food and Drug Administration as an ongoing co-operative effort of specialists in food technology, information science and nutrition.

Since then, LanguaL™ has been developed in collaboration with the US National Cancer Institute (NCI), and, more recently, its European partners, notably in France, Denmark, Switzerland and Hungary. Since 1996, the European LanguaL™ Technical Committee has administered the thesaurus.

The thesaurus provides a standardised language for describing foods, specifically for classifying food products for information retrieval. LanguaL™ is based on the concept that:

LanguaL™ is a multilingual thesaural system using facetted classification. Each food is described by a set of standard, controlled terms chosen from facets characteristic of the nutritional and/or hygienic quality of a food, as for example the biological origin, the methods of cooking and conservation, and technological treatments.

One problem concerning multilingual thesauri is the multiplicity of natural languages: corresponding terms of different languages are not always semantically equivalent. It was chosen to render LanguaL™ language-independent, to be used in the USA and Europe for numeric data banks on food composition (nutrients and contaminants), food consumption and legislation. Each descriptor is identified by a unique code pointing to equivalent terms in different languages (e.g. Czech, Danish, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Hungarian).

LanguaL™ thus facilitates links to many different food data banks and contributes to coherent data exchange. LanguaL™ is the only generally recognised method in common use for describing, capturing and retrieving data about food, adapted to computerised national and international food composition and consumption databanks.

More than 40000 foods in food composition databases LanguaL™ indexed

More than 27000 foods in European food composition databases are now LanguaL™ indexed to facilitate search and retrieval in the context of the EuroFIR eSearch Prototype facility, and currently the EuroFIR FoodExplorer.
In addition, foods from USA, Canada, New Zealand and Australia have been indexed. The USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference is now fully LanguaL™ indexed. The indexing files are available from the USDA ARS Nutrient Data site or the download pages of the Langual™ site.

The New Zealand FOODfiles 2014 Version 01 as well as the Canadian Nutrient File 2015 have also been fully indexed. The LanguaL™ indexed Australian food compsition dataset - NUTTAB 2010 - will be released shortly.

In total, more than 40000 European, North American foods and foods from other countries are now LanguaL™ indexed see download pages of the Langual™ site.

LanguaL™ 2017 - the current version of LanguaL™

The most current version of LanguaL™, version 2017, - succeeding version 2014 - was published 15 April 2017. LanguaL™ has been updated extensively - especially in facet A Product Type and facet B Food Source.
In facet A, the GS1 Global Product Classification has been updated according to the GS1 GPC Standard for Food/Beverage/Tobacco (June 2017), except for codes pertaining to tobacco. Similarly, the EFSA Food Classification and Description System for Exposure Assessment (EFSA FOODEX2) has been included in LanguaL™ 2017 according to EFSA FoodEx2 version Matrix 9.0 dated 2018-01-26 (downloaded 2018-02-07 from the EFSA Github repository) and comprises the FoodEx2 Exposure Hierarchy.
LanguaL™ facet B has been updated thoroughly with new descriptors, and existing descriptors have been updated with new information.
LanguaL™ 2017 contains a total of 12605 descriptors.  

First Anniversary release of USDA ARS FoodData Central

For more information, see USDA National Agricultural Library's Food and Nutrition Updates - May 2020.
Report Report on nutrient analysis of key cuts of British pork

Analytical survey on key cuts of pork sold in the UK commissioned by Agriculture and Horticultural Development Board (AHDB) and Public Health England (PHE). See Quadram Institute Bioscience’s Food Databanks National Capability website.
NEVO-Online 2019

New edition of Dutch food composition database NEVO-online: compositional data on more than 2150 food items - 2019. See NEVO website.
USDA ARS FoodData Central

USDA's Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center (BHNRC) has established FoodData Central. Available at