Background to Foodcounts®
Foodcounts is an individual food management system that relies on
measuring and analysing what we eat in order to encourage healthy
eating and to promote general well-being. It was first presented as
a funding proposal to the DTI in 2003, under the Smart
Feasibility award. It was inspired by the Foresight Directive on
Diet, and Nutrition Optimality
food-diary system will provide an important tool to gather
information on our daily diet and to analyse its
composition. It does not offer guidance on food selection or
food choice, other than to rely on the advice and
recommendations of public health authorities and to rely on
the golden rule of "five-a-day". In all we are monitoring 41
macronutrients and micronutrients contained within a
preferred personal diet, and we target the goal of optimal
nutrition as defined under Recommended Dietary Allowance
Foodcounts means more food economy and less waste
year we submitted a proposal on food waste
reductions as part of an Innovate UK -Tesco initiative
Background to the Food Diary System
Foodcounts was conceived
years ago by a small group of contract system designers.
The internet domain was purchased in February 2000. The
trademark and software specification was registered with the
UK Patent Office in November 2000.
Foodcounts, as a food-diary system, was first
presented as a
to the DTI in 2003, under the Smart Feasibility award
and inspired by the Foresight Directive. Therefore Foodcounts is still conceptual.
Foodcounts: product outline
What does Foodcounts mean?
Foodcounts slogan has two meanings. First, it means
food is necessary to, and determines the quality of our existence.
Second, it means food has mathematical values - both in terms of
nutritional benefits and in terms of environmental cost.
together, Foodcounts means an information-logic designed to promote
nutrition monitoring using a food
diary system to add-up our daily intake of:
is a system for selecting and measuring what we eat , following
EU guidelines on
daily intake levels, and within an optimal diet-economy.
Diet, and nutrition optimality
We define optimal nutrition as a diet that follows the
guidelines set by by the recognised public health bodies
and in the main we adopt those
guidelines set by the European Union (although we also
offer comparisons with those guidelines set by UK and US
authorities where there are significant differences).
Optimal nutrition relies on a scientific mainstream
consensus and seeks to avoid the information-anarchy of
nutrition exceptionalists and cranks.
we distinguish optimal nutrition from optimum nutrition.
"Optimum" presupposes a consensus on absolutes which in
reality does not exist in the filed of nutrition science.
Essential to optimal nutrition
is palatability: a diet that is not pleasing to an
individual's taste is unlikely to be sustained.
We only monitor the intake of
those nutrients that are recognised as essential to human
health and for which composition
tables (analysed-food-items) are maintained under the
separate authorities of the UK and US governments. These
nutrients are the Calorie (energy-giving)
Protein, the 5 types of Fats, the 6 types of Carbohydrates,
the non-energy nutrients of fibre and salt, plus
the 12 named vitamins and the 15 named minerals which make
which recommended daily intake levels are published.
In all we are monitoring 41
micronutrients contained within a preferred personal
diet, and targeting optimal nutrition as the goal (either in
the real sense or in a theoretical sense).
of pursuing Nutrition Optimality will flow
from an added inventory-system to allow
comparisons between fresh, frozen, canned or dried
variations of the same foodstuffs. The
inventory-system also allows for nutritional
degradation-values, and wastage-values to be counted.
Key definition: Fundamental Foods
To enable us to simplify the
process of nutrition monitoring we have coined the term
fundamental foods to describe a foodstuff that is a readily
one that has also been analysed for its nutrient composition
by either, or both, of the 2 national organisations responsible
for the maintenance of nutrient data (the American USDA nutrient
database and the British
McCance and Widdowson composition of foods database). We
have isolated around 200 such fundamental foods (named foods)
which essentially constitute the ingredients of the English
speaking first-world diet. In reality, for most individuals and
families the number of fundamental foods in a monthly shopping
basket will be less than 100. These foodstuffs are coded to form
the core-identities of our system. Using a proprietary
these fundamental foods map initially to all other analysed food
items (8,000), and ultimately to all seller-food-items (25,000
A system to encourage a diet of fundamental foods
accuracy of nutrition monitoring is dependent on the proportion
of measurable fundamental foods contained within the daily diet.
Most seller-food-items (i.e. foods purchased in
food-stores and which are identifiable by a barcode) will have
been combined and processed from fundamental foods, and the
nutrition values of these composite foods will always be subject
to a margin of error. And, because nutrient analysis is by
sampling and never absolute,
margins of error
vary from 10% -100%. Moreover, the labelling of these composite
foods does not normally provide any detailed analysis of
(vitamins and minerals). Until all food manufacturers provide
full composition data in an accessible form, a daily diet that
avoids processed and convenience foods will always be easier to
count and will offer a more reliable and detailed nutrition
Healthy Eating: measured portions
The success of a food monitoring
system is very much dependent on the accuracy of weight
measurement and the ability to translate 100g composition tables
into recommended portions, or in estimating the size of any
given portion. A scale-measurement system coupled with the
imaging comparisons (as recommended by the
World Cancer Research Fund) will in due course stimulate
second-sensing in portion measurement sufficient to satisfy
meaningful nutrition monitoring.
The vocabulary of food: resolving ambiguity
Those who consume food and those
who analyse food speak a different language, to an extent that
often-simple propositions concerning nutrition monitoring become
confusing. At worst, these ambiguities present a serious barrier
to a proper understanding on perhaps the most important consumer
subject that directly affect us all.
It would not be productive for us to present a word-list of all
food and nutrition related definitions (such glossaries are
widely available elsewhere). However in order to simplify this
presentation we now set down our definitions concerning those
core-meanings upon which our food diary system is configured.
So, here is the main semantic base of our food-diary-system
Food: any nutritious substance that people or animals eat or drink in order to maintain life and growth
Foodstuff: a substance suitable for consumption as food and forming a basic component of the human diet
Food-value: the nutritional value of a
Whole food: a foodstuff that has been minimally processed and is generally free from additives
Fundamental food: a whole food that has been officially analysed to determine its composition and that is a named-food within the the British and American nutrient databases
Food-item: any foodstuff that has been uniquely coded and can be identified (by and large) from its code
any foodstuff that is itemised within either of the British or American nutrient databases
Seller-food-item: any foodstuff that has been itemised as part of the Universal Product Code system and that can be identified by a unique barcode
Common food: a named whole food that is known by most consumers and is available from most (EU) food-sellers
A system to simplify food categories (food-id)
Food is categorised in 2 ways.
First, all food-sellers use shopping-aisle systems (driven
by consumer taste and preference). Second, food analysts
classify by nutritional type, essentially using a taxonomy based
on shared chemical features. The
system of food categories (food-id ™) is based on
the principles of
core-identity to create a list of fundamental
foods (and ingredient foods) so that the main consumer and
scientific information-sources can be harmonised, and thereby
improve consumer understanding and accessibility.
Plan the future as well as recording the past
Most food diaries are essentially a
daily log of food already consumed and food diaries are now
recognised as an essential and well proven system if weight-loss
or weight gain is the prime objective. However the emphasis of
diary system is in forward planning, using a dairy in its more
general sense as a time management tool. Using precise nutrition
monitoring it offers a systematic road-map to an optimal
nutrient balance that satisfies the official EU guidelines on
healthy eating (if this is our goal).
Nutrition monitoring: Summary
particular attention to the innovation recommendations of
Foresight FCCI Panel
in developing a system-design that allows for new, more
realistic standards of food categorisation and labelling; we
also allow for the provision of considerably increased
information on fundamental foods and food ingredients. In
particular all aspects of our data bank interface will
incorporate a free “access-for-all” ethos. Furthermore, by
profiling individual customer needs on health status and
general lifestyle choices, a range of freely available
enquiry applications are made possible, offering new options
on food selection.
existence of the Internet, with the add-on use of mobile
phone applications (apps), will provide the main on-line
food diary mechanism for nutrition monitoring.
However, a manual system based on flash cards, look-up
tables and daily entry sheets will form the educational core
and offer a universal first-level access . We have invested
in a licence to the UK nutrient database which with the
open-source nutrient database maintained in the US will be
consolidated to form the the prime nutrient information
source (available on line or in look-up tables).
The Foodcounts® Proposition:
a compilation of research papers
is a research project combining the work of what was Consensus
Software Ltd and what is now
Minds Ltd and Mike Allott .
It will encourage
healthy-eating and is designed specifically for kids and families. It
presents nutrition values on key-fundamental foods in an
easy-to-use, expandable, visual format. The system uses tactile food
cards as the prime discovery method.
These are the building blocks for
This is the homepage for cumulative research and recommendations
over the past 15years, carried out under the Foodcounts project.
new Foodcards visuals
Foodcounts: devised by
Mike Allott, technical development by
see research papers from
Foodcounts: summary of research papers