This section contains documents and references relevant to the food description initiative for the EuroFIR databank system, i.e. legal information, reports, meeting reports and presentations concerning food description.
The section also includes specific reference to food description and taxonomy concerning international legislation and regulations.
Common and scientific names in food composition databases
Why use scientific names?
Common names are language/dialect/region dependent. Therefore, they are not a good source of information for people not speaking the language or dialect or living in the region where the common name is used. Furthermore, the same common name can be used for different species of plants or animals dependent of where in the world they are used.
The scientific names however can be used to describe (more) precisely, which plant or animal you are dealing with. It is important to note that even though there is an ongoing international process dealing with stabilizing fish and plant names, different authoritative sources of scientific names may have chosen different scientific names for the same species.
Authoritative sources of scientific names
Internationally, there are several online sources, which can be considered as being primary authoritative sources of scientific names for animals and plants.
The most important international authoritative sources are:
- for plants: GRIN Taxonomy for Plants and Mansfeld's World Database of Agricultural and Horticultural Crops
- for fish: FishBase and FAO AFSIS ISSCAAP
- all kingdoms: ITIS, the Integrated Taxonomic Information System
For a full list of sources on scientific names, see LanguaL's links page on Food Classification, Description, Nomenclature and Taxonomy.
In addition to the international resources on scientific names, common names/scientific names are regulated in regional/national legislation. This is also the case in Europe where the European Commission, the European Council and national governments issue regulations, which define the legal common names (market names) and corresponding scientific names for plants and animals. This issue is further dealt with in the sections below.
Syntax for scientific names
The recommended syntax for presentation of scientific names is <genus> <species> <Author, year> [<source> <id>], where <genus> <species> are written in italic. It is important to indicates the Author of the name and - if possible - the year the author published the scientific name, because the same author may have given the same species different names at different times or different authors have given the same species different names (at different times). Furthermore, in order for the scientific name to be as clear as possible, it is important to document where the scientific name has been obtained and its unique identification in this source; the unique identification of the scientific name is often called nomen or taxid.
Examples of presentation of scientific names according to these recommendations are:
- for okra/gumbo:
- Abelmoschus esculentus (L.) Moench. [ARS-GRIN 619]
- Abelmoschus esculentus (L.) Moench. [EuroFIR BASIS]
- and for atlantic cod:
- Gadus morhua Linnaeus, 1758 [FAO GADI Gadu2]
- Gadus morhua Linnaeus, 1758 [ISSCAAP COD]
Use only authoritative sources for scientific names
It is important only to use the authoritative sources for common (market) and scientific names. As the regulations indicate which names to use, it is important that these names are also used in food composition databases, because it the regulations determine which names can be use in trade.
For this reason, it is also important that you do not use popular books as sources of names - both common and scientific - as they are often erroneous and the origin of naming in these books is usually not indicated.
Indication of language for scientific names in data interchange
The language indicator for scientific names in data interchange is by international convention chosen as 'tx' (meaning "taxonomic").
Common and scientific names in European legislation
Specific Legislation concerning Fish and Plants
The European legislation contains a range of Directives and Regulations concerning agricultural and fisheries' products. Examples of these are listed below.
Fish and seafood names in the European countries
EU regulations on fish (fish/seafood names)
The regulations on fish naming in EU are rather strict. First of all, all catches must be reported to the European Commission. Secondly, the common names (market names) and scientific names are regulated in the EU legislation and only the proper designation of species (market names) must be used in the marking or labelling of the foods.
Among other things, the Council Regulation (EC) No. 104/2000 instruct the Member States to lay down rules for minimum information to consumers concerning the market names, production area, and catch area of fish and seafood. The regulation instructs the Member States to "draw up and publish lists of the commercial designations in their territory for at least the species listed" in the annexes of this Regulation, no later than 1 January 2002. This means that all EU Member States have regulated the common names of fish and seafood according to the same regulation and against the same Regulation - the market names of fish in Europe are stabilized.
Examples of these lists of the commercial designation of species are the Danish Fiskehandelsnavne på dansk og latin (DK National Food Agency, 936 species) and the Updated list of commercial names for fish (UK FSA 2007-06-08). Similarly, the Swiss Federal Institute oh Health provides Fischliste - Benennung von Speisefischen in German, French, and Italian.
The EU Regulation on fish is laid down in a series of directives (for all information, see EUR-Lex, search on "fish").
Food description - especially concerning fish names - is very clear in the EU regulations as the definition of scientific names and common names (market names/commercial names) is regulated on a pan-European level. This means that scientific names as well as market names of fish in the European countries are regulated in the common EU regulations, which are followed by all Member States.
Some other examples are the following regulations in different languages, which contain the information on scientific and market names of fish sold in the European Union:
EU COMMISSION REGULATION (EC) No 1637/2001 of 23 July 2001 amending Council Regulation (EEC) No 3880/91 on the submission of nominal catch statistics by Member States fishing in the North-East Atlantic. [OJ L 222, 17.8.2001, p. 20–28 (ES, DA, DE, EL, EN, FR, IT, NL, PT, FI, SV)]
COMMISSION REGULATION (EC) No 1638/2001 of 24 July 2001 amending Council Regulation (EC) No 2597/95 on the submission of nominal catch statistics by Member States fishing in certain areas other than those of the North Atlantic. [OJ L 222, 17.8.2001, p. 29–52 (ES, DA, DE, EL, EN, FR, IT, NL, PT, FI, SV)]
This means that the country specific documents of these regulations contain the preferred fish names in the local language.
Fish names in the European Community
The commercial fish names in the European regulation can be traced back to FAO's lists of fish names, which are also the basis of the FishBase initiative. The ASFIS ISSCAAP, International Standard Statistical Classification of Aquatic Animals and Plants of FAO, and used in the FAO Year Books and in FAO Aquaculture Production Statistics, is the basis of most fish lists in the world. The European Regulations (see above) use the 3-alpha identifier in the ISSCAAP list. The ISSCAAP list can be downloaded from the FAO Fisheries website. The list contains fish names in English, French and Spanish as well as the scientific names for 10650 species.
A pdf-document of the ASFIS ISSCAAP list sorted by scientific name has been prepared for the EuroFIR Network (by AM, DFI), it can be found here.
A short list of fish names in European languages, Fish Names of the European Community, has been prepared by the UK Torry Research Station (Torry Advisory Note No. 96), which is available from the FAO website.
Fish and seafood names in other countries
Australian regulations on fish (fish/seafood names)
Like in EU, the regulations on fish naming in Australia are rather strict and laid down in the Australian Fish Names Standards (current version 1.9, July 2007) developed by the Seafood Services Australia (AS/SSA Standards) The Standard defines standard fish names for use in Australia and specifies when standard fish names are required to be used. The Australian Standard Fish Names List (Annex A) is incorporated into and forms part of this Standard.
Based on the Australian Fish Names Standard, the Australian Government's Fisheries Research & Development Corporation (FRDC) has developed a searchable database of Australian Standard Fish Names as well as fact sheets on seafood.
United States regulations on fish (fish/seafood names)
U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (FDA CFSAN) is responsible for for the regulations on seafood in the United States (under Code of Federal Regulations vol. 21).
U.S. FDA publishes the Seafood List, a compilation of existing acceptable market names for imported and domestically available seafood. It contains more than 1500 species of finfish and shellfish important in the U.S. The list was developed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in cooperation with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). FDA advises either the Acceptable Market Name or the Common Name in labelling seafood products which will help assure that identity labelling of the seafood will comply with FDA and NMFS regulations.
The Seafood List links to the Regulatory Fish Encyclopedia (RFE), which is coordinated through the Seafood Products Research Center and Science Branch, Seattle District; the Office of Seafood, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition; and the Seafood Laboratory and Science Branch, San Francisco District, with participation from other FDA offices within CFSAN and the field.
The RFE includes for each of a number of commercially relevant fish species for sale in the U.S. market high-resolution photographs as their scanned digital images (jpeg format) of whole fish and their marketed product forms (including fillets, steaks, or whole crustaceans) which may be used for visual comparison to a whole fish in question (or its marketed product form). The RFE also includes unique taxonomic characteristics (physical properties such as size, shape, color, etc.), usually in a "checklist" format, to aid in identification. In addition there is chemical taxonomic information consisting of species-characteristic biochemical patterns which may be compared quantitatively to patterns obtained by an appropriate laboratory analysis of the fish species specimen in question. These patterns include data from IEF (isoelectric focusing) and RFLP (restriction fragment length polymorphism) studies.
Plant names in EU regulation
Like fish names, also plant names are regulated in EU legislation. From a food description point of vies, the most important regulations are the Common Catalogue of Varieties of Agricultural Plant Species, a list of 81 important agricultural crops, the Common catalogue of varieties of vegetable species, a list of 46 vegetable species, as well as Council Directive 2002/55/EC of 13 June 2002 on the marketing of vegetable seed.
Plant names in EU regulation on pesticides
An example of plant name definitions in EU Regulation on Pesticides is COMMISSION REGULATION (EC) No 178/2006 of 1 February 2006 amending Regulation (EC) No 396/2005 of the European Parliament and of the Council to establish Annex I listing the food and feed products to which maximum levels for pesticide residues apply. This EU Regulation contains a list of food and feeds products.