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Scientific data management

We continue to actively support and implement the Australian Government Public Data Policy. The importance of managing scientific data to best meet the needs of our scientific risk analysis processes has been recognised by including the development of a Strategic Plan for Scientific Data in our updated Science Strategy 2019–23.

Using, maintaining and enhancing our scientific databases and associated tools remains an important part of managing our scientific data appropriately. This year we completed minor enhancements to our Harvest database system to allow us to more efficiently search the database and manipulate dietary exposure assessment data. A major update to recipe datasets was also completed to allow us to better estimate dietary exposure from mixed foods.

National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey

In June 2019, we signed an agreement with the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) for the 2019–20 financial year to undertake preparatory work on the next National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey (NNPAS). We completed all agreed activities in 2019–20. This included reviewing the classification systems for reporting intakes from the next survey, reviewing the food supply to determine what foods and measures will be needed in the survey instrument, reviewing potential survey instruments, developing brand lists and undertaking two analytical programs.

We will continue to work with the ABS over the next four years. The next agreement will include activities such as customising the survey instrument for use in the next NNPAS, finalising the classification systems for reporting intakes, developing our data management system to enable reporting against the Australian Dietary Guidelines and producing the AUSNUT dataset to enable the ABS to estimate food, dietary supplement and nutrient intakes from the survey.

Health Star Rating system five year review

The Forum asked FSANZ to provide detailed modelling and advice in relation to recommendations to modify the Health Star Rating (HSR) calculator arising from the HSR system five year review (Review). We prepared two detailed reports investigating the potential impact of all of the recommended changes to the HSR calculator and a stronger approach to total sugars and sodium, as well as providing assistance in developing definitions for minimally processed fruits and vegetables and flavoured waters. These reports and definitions have been used to inform the Government’s response to the recommendations in the Review.

As FSANZ is seen as an independent expert in food related data, the Review also recommended that we take over custody of the HSR calculator, become more closely involved in the governance of the HSR system and become custodian of a branded food database. We have started discussions with Health on these activities.


Australian Food Composition Database

FSANZ assigned all foods in the Australian Food Composition Database (AFCD) a FoodEx2 classification. The FoodEx2 classification enables FSANZ data to be harmonised with international food composition datasets. AFCD was incorporated into EuroFIRs (European Food Information Resource) FoodExplorer database in February 2020, along with data from 39 other countries.

Nutrition Panel Calculator

The Nutrition Panel Calculator (NPC) provides the food industry and other users with a readily available easy-to-use interactive tool for preparing nutrition information panels, to make it easier to meet the labelling requirements of the Food Standards Code. This year, on average, there were 17,000 hits on the NPC landing page each month, by approximately 9,100 unique users.

In 2019–20 we have worked on redeveloping the calculator to enhance the stability of the platform and provide improved functionality and overall user experience. This work is expected to be completed by the end of 2020. Future work will involve updating the nutrient data which supports the calculator.

Branded Food Database

In June 2019 we were engaged by the Department of Health to extend our food composition data management system (Silo) to enable an additional dataset of branded food products to be produced. We were asked to work closely with the ABS so that the dataset could be used with supermarket transaction data, and to ensure that the dataset incorporated relevant aspects of Recommendation 8 of the HSR review.

We have undertaken extensive consultation with a broad range of domestic and international stakeholders to identify the most appropriate approach for obtaining data for the Branded Food Database (BFD). Discussions with stakeholders focussed on gathering information about the data and/or datasets they had available and their experiences generating data using each method and gauging their interest in contributing to the project.

A working group has been established to discuss issues relevant to the collection of data. A proof of concept trial was conducted between May–June to test the exchange of branded product information with some working group members.