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LanguaL™  -  the International Framework for Food Description

 Updated 2024-05-21

FoodOn - a field to fork ontology - the successor of LanguaL™

FoodOn provides the comprehensive ontology, a controlled vocabulary, built to interoperate with the international OBO Library collaboration and to represent entities which bear a “food role”. FoodOn is based largely on LanguaL™ and is being further developed in the ontology environment. For further information, see the FoodOn website.

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 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 (SR28) is fully LanguaL™ indexed.
In total, more than 40000 European, North American foods and foods from other countries are now LanguaL™ indexed and available on the download pages of the Langual™ site.

LanguaL™ 2017 - the current version of LanguaL™

  The current version of LanguaL™, version 2017, was published 15 April 2017. LanguaL™ was 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 Albanian food composition tables (2022).

First Albanian food composition tables (2022) published with assistance from NPPC-VÚP in the frame of the Slovak Republic Official Development Support Programme.
Download here.
Swedish food composition database updated.

New version of the Swedish food composition database with updated nutritional values for several food groups and new foods and iodine values added. See the Swedish Food Agency's website.
First edition of the Kyrgyz Food Composition Table.

Kyrgyzstan has released their first national food composition table. For more information, see the EuroFIR website.
2021 Release of the New Zealand Food Composition Database.

The 2021 update of New Zealand food composition database (NZFCD) released online on 31st March 2022. For more information, see the EuroFIR website.