Information Sources

Food analysts often have to identify the various types of analytical methods available for determining the concentration of a specific component and then select the one that is most suitable for their particular application. A knowledge of the various sources where information about analytical methods is available is therefore extremely important to the food analyst.


A number of textbooks and reference books have been written on the subject of food analysis (1-8). These books cover topics such as sampling, data analysis, principles of analytical techniques, and procedures for analyzing specific food components (eg, water, fat, protein, carbohydrates, and minerals). This type of book usually provides a general overview of analytical methods, rather than the specific details needed to actually carry out an analysis.

A variety of other types of book contain information that is also useful to food analysts (eg, monographs, conference proceedings, encyclopedias, and handbooks). Monographs are books that deal with a particular specialized subject area, such as spectroscopy or chromatography. Conference proceedings contain papers that were presented at a scientific or technical meeting on a particular topic and are usually published by the sponsoring organization, for example, the American Chemical Society. Encyclopedias provide information about a wide range of different analytical techniques, for example, Kirk-Othmer Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology (9). Some handbooks contain information about the physicochemical properties of materials (molecular weight, structure, density, refractive index, solubility, specific heat capacity), which are useful for the identification and determination of specific food components (8,10-12).

Official Methods

In many circumstances it is important for a food analyst to use a standard analytical method that has been approved by a professional association, such as the Association of Official Analytical Chemists, the American Association of Cereal Chemists, or the American Oil Chemists Society (13-15). These methods are compiled in volumes that are periodically updated as the methods are improved or as new methods are accepted. Standard methods have been developed after years of collaborative testing and are considered reliable and official.


Analytical methods developed by other scientists are often reported in scientific journals. Useful information about analytical methods may be obtained from food science journals (eg, Food Chemistry, Food Microstructure, Food Testing and Analysis, Journal of Food Science) or from journals published in other areas (eg, Analytical Chemistry, Journal of the Chemical Society, Applied Spectroscopy). For a detailed overview of many of the useful periodicals for food analysts see chapter 1 of Pomeranz and Meloan (1).


Critical reviews are usually written by one or more experts in the field and are intended to offer a comprehensive survey of the current state of the knowledge on a specific topic. A critical review may be written about the application of a specific analytical instrument, recent developments in instrumentation, or the determination of a specific component. Critical reviews are usually published in scientific journals or book series (eg, Advances in Analytical Chemistry and Instrumentation, Advances in Food Research, Critical Reviews in Food and Nutrition).


Details about analytical methods can often be located in master's and doctoral theses. Since 1938 theses from U.S. universities have been processed for microfilming by University Microfilms of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Abstracts of up to 600 words of these theses are published in Dissertation Abstracts. An annual list of U.S. master's theses in the pure and applied sciences has been published since 19551956 by the Thermphysical Properties Research Center, Purdue University, Lafayette, Indiana.

Modern Information Retrieval Systems

During the past few decades, computerized systems for storing and retrieving scientific information have developed rapidly. Many of these can be accessed from a computer terminal in a library or via the Internet. An awareness of the systems available and their proper use can significantly reduce the time and effort involved in a literature search on a particular subject.

Several databases of particular interest to food analysts are available: AGRICOLA (USDA, National Agricultural Library, Beltsville, Md.), BIOSIS PREVIEWS (Biosciences Information Services, Philadelphia, Pa.), CA Search (Chemical Abstracts Service, Columbus, Ohio), CAB Abstracts (Commonwealth Agricultural Bureau, Slough, U.K.), CRIS (USDA, Washington, D.C.), Dissertation Abstracts Online (University Microfilms International, Ann Arbor, Mich.), Science Citation Index (Institute for Scientific Information, Philadelphia, Penn.), and Food Science and Technology Abstracts (International Food Information Service, Reading, U.K.).

Trade Publications

Many companies that manufacture chemicals or analytical instruments produce publications that are valuable sources of information for food analysts. These include bibliographies and abstracts of technical/scientific articles in a specific area, or detailed handbooks giving specifications, properties, and details of analytical procedures. The instruction manuals normally provided by companies with the instrumentation they sell are indispensable for installing, using, and servicing equipment. Several scientific and trade journals periodically prepare lists of major commercial providers of chemicals and instrumentation (eg, Science, Prepared Foods, and Laboratory Equipment Directory).

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