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2018-19 Key foods analytical program

Includes nutrient data for fourteen foods including selected milk and dairy products, bread and cereal products, bolognese sauces, chicken schnitzel and potato.

Selection of key foods

In 2018-19 FSANZ undertook an analytical program to update and expand our food composition data holdings. Fourteen foods were selected for nutrient analysis based on the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Key Foods concept (Haytowitz et al. 2002).

Key foods were identified by:

  • combining food consumption data from the 2011-12 National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey (2011-12 NNPAS) (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2015) with nutrient values reported in AUSNUT 2011-13 (FSANZ, 2016) to produce a list of food groups that contributed to the intake of each individual nutrient
  • determining which food groups contributed the most to intakes across all nutrients
  • selecting specific foods from within the food groups for analysis, giving consideration to changes in consumption and composition since 2011-13, the availability of recent analytical data and market share data.

This program follows on from the 2006 and 2008 Key foods programs which adhered to the same process using the previous 1995 National Nutrition Survey consumption data combined with the nutrient values reported in AUSNUT 1999 (ANZFA, 1999).

The approach used for identifying key foods is shown in Figure 1. Further information on key foods selected is available in Appendix 1 [40 kb docx]

Overview of methods used to determine key foods 


Eight samples were purchased for each food (except toasted white bread and bolognese sauces) across five states and territories (Australian Capital Territory (ACT), Queensland, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia) to provide a range of production locations. Half of each fresh white bread sample was toasted for the toasted white bread samples. Bolognese sauce samples were home prepared in the ACT using locally purchased ingredients and recipe guidelines. For some samples, multiple items were required to ensure an appropriate sample weight was obtained (i.e. one sample of potatoes included five individual potatoes).

Sampling was carried out by FSANZ and the National Measurement Institute (NMI). All food purchases were made within capital city metropolitan areas at a retail outlet representing the buying habits of the majority of the community, including supermarkets, bakeries, butchers, and fresh fruit and vegetable stores. If more than one sample of the same brand was purchased, different batch codes or use by dates were selected where possible.

The complete list of foods selected for analysis is available below.

Foods analysed in the 2018-19 Key foods analytical program

Foods No. of samples purchased (no. of items purchased) No. of brands/varieties
White bread, commercial, fresh8 (8) 7
White bread, commercial, toasted n/a n/a
Wholemeal bread, commercial, fresh 8 (8) 7
Grain bread, commercial, fresh 8 (8) 6
Weet-bix 8 (8) 1
Pasta, white wheat flour, cooked from dry 8 (8) 5
Mlilk, cow fluid, regular whole, full fat, unfortified 8 (8) 7
Milk, cow, fluid, reduced fat, <2 g/100g, unfortified 8 (8) 6
Cheese, cheddar, natural, regular fat 8 (10) 8
Butter 8 (12) 5
Potatoes 8 (33) n/a
Chicken schnitzel, commercial, baked without fat 8 (10) 6
Bolognese sauce, homemade from basic ingredients 6* n/a
Bolognese sauce, homemade from commercial ingredients 6* n/a

* Bolognese sauce samples were prepared in six home kitchens using purchased ingredients.

Preparation and analysis

The samples were delivered by hand or sent by courier to NMI. Once received, the samples were photographed and copies were provided to FSANZ for approval prior to analysis.

NMI prepared samples according to the sample preparation procedures provided by FSANZ. Each sample was weighed (before and after preparation where appropriate), homogenised and either prepared to be analysed individually or combined to form one composite sample, depending on the nutrient to be analysed. Nutrients analysed in this program are listed in Nutrients analysed in the 2018-19 key foods analytical program.

In general, individual samples were analysed for nutrients for which the food is a key contributor to dietary intake. Individual samples were also analysed for nutrients where the food was fortified with the nutrient and/or the nutrient was a priority for FSANZ standards development work.

Composite samples were analysed for nutrients for which the food is not considered to be a key contributor to dietary intake. Based on existing data and the nature of the food, some nutrients were not analysed in some foods not expected to contain the nutrient.

NMI conducted the analyses at their Melbourne laboratories. Methods of analysis used have been accredited by the National Association of Testing Authorities.

Nutrients analysed in the 2018-19 key foods analytical program

Proximates Vitamins​ Minerals​ ​Other
  • ​Moisture
  • Protein
  • Total fat
  • Starch
  • Sugar profile
  • Dietary fibre
  • Ash
  • Organic acids
  • ​Carotenes (α and β)
  • Cryptoxanthin
  • Rethinol
  • Thiamin
  • Riboflavin
  • Niacin
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin B12
  • Panthothenate (B5)
  • Total folates
  • Free folates
  • Vitamin C
  • Tocopherols (α, β, γ and δ)
  • Lutein
  • Lycopene
  • Vitamin D3
  • 25-hydroxy Vitamin D3
  • ​Aluminium
  • Arsenic
  • Calcium
  • Copper
  • Iodine
  • Iron
  • Lead
  • Magnesium
  • Manganese
  • Molybdenum
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Selenium
  • Sodium
  • Zinc
  • ​Fatty acid profile
  • Cholesterol
  • Tryptophan


FSANZ validated the results using our existing analytical data, food labels (ingredient lists and nutrition information panels) where available and data from international food composition databases for similar foods.

The majority of results were consistent with previous findings. A small number of analytes in some foods showed levels outside the expected range. These food samples were reanalysed by the laboratory, and all results were verified and accepted.

Key findings from this program include:

  • The food category with the highest overall score was ‘Savoury pasta/noodle and sauce dishes, 5% saturated fat’ as the dishes contained in this group contribute a wide range of nutrients. Homemade spaghetti bolognaise-style dishes account for almost 30% of consumption in this group.
  • Full fat milk was an important contributor to overall nutrient intake of Australians aged 2 years and over.
  • Higher than expected values were noted for butyric acid (C4) as a proportion of total fatty acids in regular whole milk, reduced fat milk, cheddar cheese and butter.
  • Lower than expected folate values were reported in regular whole milk, reduced fat milk, cheddar cheese, fresh white bread, fresh grain bread and bolognese sauces.
  • Pantothenic acid values in Weet-Bix and cooked white pasta were lower than expected.
  • Vitamin B12 values in regular whole milk and reduced fat milk were lower than expected.
  • Vitamin C value in peeled, boiled potatoes was lower than expected.

Further investigation suggests the differences in analytical results from this program are most likely due to differences in animal feed, processing (including fortification), growing and storage conditions compared to the comparison data.

For the complete set of results generated from this program refer to Appendix 2 – 2018-19 Key foods analytical program data table [123 kb xlxs] .


The results of this analytical program have filled some important data gaps and given FSANZ an improved level of confidence about the composition of these foods which contribute to population nutrient intakes. The results will also feed into future releases of FSANZ published databases, including the Australian Food Composition Database (formerly called NUTTAB).


Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2015) National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey, 2011-12 Basic CURF, CD-ROM. 2nd edition. Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra.

Australian New Zealand Food Authority. (1999) AUSNUT 1999. Food Standards Australia New Zealand. Canberra, Australia.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand. (2016) AUSNUT 2011-13. Food Standards Australia New Zealand.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand. (2019) Australian Food Composition Database. Food Standards Australia New Zealand.

Haytowitz, D.B., Pehrsson, P.R., Holden, J.M. (2002) The identification of key foods for food composition research. Journal of Food Composition and Analysis 15:183-194.

Last updated: 22 June 2020


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