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The food composition data used to estimate the nutrients available in the food supply are obtained from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service's (ARS) Primary Nutrient Data Set (PDS). The PDS contains about 3,000 foods and their nutrient profiles. The USDA National Nutrient Database form Standard Reference is also used. Per capita nutrient estimates derived from food composition data provide important information on the potential of the food supply to meet the nutritional needs of Americans. As such, they are closely linked to Federal dietary guidance and nutritional recommendations. A complete series of nutrient reference values, the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs), was released (1997-2005) by the National Academy of Sciences, Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine to provide reference estimates of nutrient intakes to assess the adequacy of diets. The DRIs replace and expand on the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs), the acknowledged nutrient standards for more than 50 years. The DRIs provide four nutrient values: Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs), the Estimated Average Requirement (EAR), the Adequate Intake (AI), and the Tolerable Upper Intake level. Each of these values has an implicit use for assessing diet adequacy. The EAR is estimated to meet the requirement of half of the healthy individuals in a group. It is the most appropriate value to use for assessing nutrient intakes of population groups and thus used for comparing food supply per capita per day nutrient data to the recommendations. Food specialists develop nutrient profiles for unique items as necessary.

Nutrients added to foods commercially through fortification and enrichment are included in the nutrient estimates. 

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