Eurocode 2 Discussion Note N005

Version 99/1 main revisions and outstanding questions

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ContentsIntroductionComments by:29 Oct 99
Overview of Core Classification, version 99/1
Major revisions in Main Groups
Policy issues
Request for comments and suggestions


The revisions to the Eurocode 2 food coding system to produce Core Classification, version 99/1 have now been completed for all Main groups. This discussion note summarises the main changes and records the main points which need further discussion. Further comments on the changes, and particularly on the outstanding points, are very welcome.

Overview of Core Classification, version 99/1

As noted in the introduction to the Core Classification Finalisation project, the revision of the initial Core Classification proposals (version 98/1) could work to two important guidelines, namely: Also, while the version 98/1 proposals did not change the coverage of Main Groups, this further revision has allowed categories to be moved between groups. In some cases this is necessary to resolve anomalies in policies. However it is a major source of the outstanding points, for example whether fruit juices should be classified as fruit products or beverages, which are identified in this note.

In version 99/1 the increase in the number of hierarchical levels has been kept to a minimum. The Core Classification has been defined as the two levels below the Main Group level although in many cases the lowest Core Classification level made be considered a sufficently detailed category that requires no further subdivision. In a few cases, a further level has been included, for example for the Common bean. Thus at present only one extra level has been added to the original Eurocode 2 hierarchy, but there may be cases where further levels may be helpful.

The new system of classification codes uses two-digit numbers for enumerating categories and will also be longer than previous codes where extra levels are included. However with suitable computer coding support systems, longer codes should not prove a disadvantage and their use provides a major advantage, gaps can be left so that new categories added in the future can be inserted in the appropriate logical position. In many cases categories have been ordered logically, but where there is no clear criterion for doing this they are ordered alphabetically. Numbers in the ranges 00 to 09 and 80 to 99 have been reserved for special usage and therefore have not been assigned in the current subgroup codes. For further discussion of the revised codes, see Eurocode 2 Discussion Note N003: Revised hierarchical food codes.

Major revisions in Main Groups

[Eurocode 2 Main Groups]
The following paragraphs note some of the main changes made in the version 99/1 proposals and point out some aspects which require further consideration. Generally the changes represent modifications to the Core Classification version 98/1 but some may refer back to the Eurocode 2 version 93/1 classification, particularly where version 98/1 implemented transitional changes as was the case for carcass meat and offal.

Main Group 1: Milk and milk products:  The version 98/1 Core Classification retained the original version 93/1 Main Group 1 classification but some major changes have been proposed for version 99/1. The old category of Milk has been split into Cow milks and Other milks so that information about the species can be recorded. However this does have the disadvantage that the group becomes categorised on both source (species) and product type criteria. At presence source information cannot be recorded for products such as yogurt and cheese, and any products such as condensed milk can only be recorded if they are derived from cow milk. Additions include a category for higher fat creams and subgroups for Imitation milk and cream and Milk beverage powders.

Main Group 2: Egg and egg products:  The subgroup level has been treated similarly to Group 1, with a subgroup Chicken eggs for the most important species with others assigned to general subgroups. For the present a distinction has been made between domestic and wild birds but this may not be considered helpful.

Main Group 3: Meat and meat products:  A major change is the complete separation of sets of subgroups for carcass meats and for offal. Offal is divided according to the anatomical organ and then source organism. Note that an Others category results in the next level of subdivision appearing at a lower level in the hierarchy, for example Beef liver is at the sub-subgroup level whereas Beef heart is at the food item level. Further input on a suitable subdivision of the Restructured meat and meat analogues subgroup would be welcome.

Main Group 4: Fish and fish products:  Following the policies in version 93/1 and 98/1, the fish subgroups are defined on taxonomy rather than on more subjective categories such as Oily fish. Subgroups for marine mammals and non-aquatic organisms have been brought together at the end of the listing in case it is decided to move them to other appropriate main groups.

Main Group 5: Fats and oils:  The main version 99/1 proposals for the Vegetable fats and oils subgroup follow the single listing of version 98/1. However it might be better to subdivide this overall category to give more detail of the source, for example with categories such as Seed oil. An alternative classification has been proposed.

Main Group 6: Grains and grain products:  A clear separation has been made between basic products produced by the processing of grains, including their milling to flour, and cooked products including breads. Barley should possibly be given its own subgroup, partly because of the number of its basic products. The new subgroup Substitute flours and starches includes a range of products previously located in other main groups. Breads have been divided into Soft bread and Unleaven bread and crispbread although alternative suggestions would be welcome, as they would for more detailed categorisations of Savoury cereal products and Sweet cereal products.

Main Group 7: Pulses, seeds, kernels, nuts and products:  A special subgroup, Underground pulses, has been introduced for Peanut, partly to emphasise the location of its products under Pulse products. The separation of kernels and nuts is somewhat unsatisfactory. These might form a joint subgroup separate from seeds, but ideally further subgroups should be defined to prevent the lists of categories in each becoming too long.

Main Group 8: Vegetables and vegetable products:  Some changes were made to the vegetable subgroups as additional categories were identified. Bulb vegetables was renamed Onion-family vegetables to indicate clearly the inclusion of chives, leeks, etc. Categories for immature (unripe) fruits consumed as vegetables have been added to the subgroup Fruit vegetables, with cross-references to ripe forms or varieties in the Fruits main group. The subgroup Pod and seed-head vegetables was added to confirm that green bean pods and sweetcorn are classified as vegetables, whereas leguminous vegetables consumed as individual seeds, for example peas and broad beans, are placed in the Pulses group. The subgroup Seaweeds has been added, removing these from the Fish main group. The subgroup Vegetable products has been added for puréed, pickled and fermented products.

Main Group 9: Fruits and fruit products:  Some changes have been made to reduce the number of categories within each subgroup. These include the separation of Stone fruit into Prunus species fruit and Other stone fruit, and the use of the extra hierarchical level where possible, for example for Custard apple. The subgroup Fruit products has been added and includes fruit sauces, previously categorised as Sauces, fruit base in the Miscellaneous foods main group. However fruit jellies such as Apple jelly and Redcurrant jelly remain in the Sugars main group on the basis of their main ingredients.

Main Group 10: Sugar, sugar products, chocolate products and confectionery:  Sugars have been separated into the subgroups Sugar (sucrose) and Other sugars. The 98/1 subgroup for Confectionery bars has been made more specific as Chocolate-coated confectionery bars, with other confectionery bars including cereal bars being under Non-chocolate confectionery.

Main Group 11: Beverages (non-milk):  The single subgroup Alcoholic long drinks has been created for beer, cider, etc. Liqueurs have been subdivided into types to take advantage of the extra hierarchical level and a subgroup has been added for Alcoholic mixed drinks. A separate subgroup for Carbonated soft drinks has been created. Pending further discussion, fruit and vegetable juices and nectars (with nectars merged to a single subgroup) have been kept in the Beverages main group rather than being classified as fruit or vegetable products.

Main Group 12: Miscellaneous, soups, sauces, snacks and products:  The subgroups have been reorganised with the aim of providing more logical and comprehensive listings of ingredients, accompaniments, and products. Substantial listings of herbs and spices have been added, together with a separate subgroup for Herb and spice mixtures. Sauces have been divided into Savoury sauces and Dessert sauces, with fruit sauces moved to the Fruit main group. An additional type of product is covered through the Prepared salads subgroup.

Main Group 13: Products for special nutritional use:  No changes have been made to this main group.

Policy issues

The following have been identified as significant policy issues and further comments on any aspects of these are very welcome.

Categorisation and multiple classification:  The 99/1 revisions have concentrated on improving the categorisation in Eurocode 2 rather than on developing a classification hierarchy that meets any particular requirements. It is envisaged that differing requirements for grouping and aggregating consumption and other food data will require that the Eurocode categories are organised into various alternative hierarchies designed for different applications. The main function of the hierarchy intrinsic in the Eurocode codes is to provide an effective means to identify, organise, list and help assign categories. This limitation of the purpose of the intrinsic classification should simplify discussion of the categorisation since it removes many of the contentious issues and allows it to concentrate on providing a consistent means of identifying and recording food items.

However it is not possible or desirable to separate completely the issues of categorisation and classification. Some alternative classifications will require specialist grouping categories. For example, although version 99/1 categorises fish taxonomically, alternative classifications may require grouping categories such as Fatty fish. Even so, the approach should also simplify the definition of such grouping categories, or allow the use of alternative definitions, without adverse implications for the underlying recording system.

Source-organism versus product-type classification:  In some main groups such as Vegetables, categories are principally defined on the basis of the source organism whereas in others such as Milk products they have been defined by product type. This can create anomalies in the information recorded if similar products are treated in different ways, the major example being soya substitutes for mammal milk products. For mammal milks the categories recorded the type of milk by fat content but no information on the species. On the other hand, soya substitutes were recorded as Soya products but without information on the type, for example milk, yogurt or flour. Revisions have been made to improve coding of soya products but more general cases exist, for example between the coding of dishes (e.g. fish pudding as Fish) and soups (e.g. fish-based soups as Miscellaneous foods). With regard to the earlier point, note that Fish-based soups is a well-defined category and the only problem is where to place it in the classification.

In general, main groups initially based on source organism include further categories (for example for mixtures or products) defined by product type whereas main groups divided by product type may have categories further subdivided by source (for example 'Soups, fish base'). It is important for the useability of Eurocode that categories are defined and organised according to clear policies, both generally and for particular main groups. The present proposals move in this direction but further discussion is required before such policies can be finalised.

A consequence which arises from both the categorisation-classification and source-type considerations is that categories should be defined on a combination of source and type so that they can be placed in both source-based and product type-based classification hierarchies.

Composition-based categorisation:  One criterion for categorisation used in several places in the Eurocode 2 classification is that of composition, the content of the food in terms of a particularly significant component. The main examples discussed as part of the version 99/1 proposals are fat in milk (and other milk products such as cream and cheese), alcohol in beverages and oil in salad dressing. Although composition-based categorisation is only used where it is considered 'important', any such boundary must always be arbitrary and will vary according to the specific application using Eurocode. In the case of Fat spread the items are categorised on both fat content and saturates content. Such multiple criteria can cause the number of necessary categories to increase considerably (and perhaps increase problems with coding).

The discussions referred to above include the suggestion that composition criteria might be handled through the Descriptor System. This has the major advantages that the content information need only be coded for applications that require it and that when it is required it can be applied to any food item categories. The Descriptor System would need a Composition facet structured into sub-facets for each codable component.

Use of descriptors:  As well as the Composition facet, the Eurocode review has identified various types of information which might be stored using descriptors, as well as proposing that further work is required on the existing version 93/1 Descriptor System. Also the Norwegian proposal suggests using descriptors for recording various aspects identifying food items. The version 99/1 proposals assume that the 'for dietetic use' categories routinely included in the version 93/1 main groups will be replaced by a descriptor selected from a new Use facet. It has also been proposed that "Low-calorie ('diet') soft drinks are recorded using the non-diet category plus a descriptor". This might be from a Label claim facet rather from a Component removed facet since production of such a modified food does not necessarily involve the removal or addition of a constituent. However Component removed and Cooking method facets will be required for describing the preparation of foods as consumed and another facet identified is the state of Maturity of the organism when harvested (and possibly other foods such as cheeses).

The Descriptor System is best used for aspects which are separate from identification of the basic food, for terms which can be applied to a range of different foods, and for information which may be required for some applications and not others. The version 99/1 revision was not intended to propose modifications to the Descriptor System but to identify its relationship to the classification categories and some types of information it should cover. Use of descriptors should form a key element of the overall Eurocode 2 food coding system and further work on it is required, although the independence of facets (if their scope is carefully defined) makes ongoing development feasible.

Mixed-food indicators:  No codes in the version 99/1 listings include the mixed-food indicator ('X' in version 93/1) and no proposals are made on its addition to codes to indicate that the coded item is a mixed food or recipe. If such an indication is required, it would probably be better encoded as an independent descriptor code rather than corrupting the category code. (In version 93/1, codes were considered to be made up of separate fields but the use of fixed-length subdivision codes increases the benefit in sorting and searching derived from treating them as a single identifier.) However the first step should be to define the requirements for such a indicator in the handling of qualitative or quantitative consumption data. One aspect of this would be the relationship to a system for the handling of recipe information.

Request for comments and suggestions

Please submit your comments and suggestions on the Eurocode 2 version 99/1 proposals or these and other policy issues using the project feedback form by the closing date of 29 October 1999.



Ian Unwin
Updated:  25 November 1999