IFR has been involved in European projects focussing on non-nutrient research for more than 15 years and Bioactives are the main focus of IFR’s Food and Health Programme. FDNC’s activities centre on the development and application of bioactive databases containing information on the composition, and biological effects in humans of bioactives in plant-based foods (see below).

Definition of Bioactives

Historically, non-nutrient bioactive compounds (or phytochemicals) have not been classified as nutrients, but there is mounting evidence they may help promote optimal human health, especially in relation age-related disease (e.g. cardiovascular disease and cancer). Research suggests that these bioactive compounds found in fruits, vegetables, edible fungi and nuts, may help slow the ageing process and reduce risk of many diseases including cancer, cardiovascular disease, degenerative eye diseases and osteoporosis. These bioactive compounds are defined as ‘inherent non-nutrient constituents of food plants and edible mushrooms with anticipated health promoting/ beneficial and/ or toxic effects when ingested’ (Gry et al. 2007, Trends in Food Science & Technology 18, 434-444).

 eBASIS database

eBASISThe eBASIS system (electronic BioActive Substances Information System) is an internet-based database that was developed to provide access to quality-assessed data describing composition and the biological activity of bioactive compounds in plant foods. eBASIS was developed with previous EU- and EFSA-funding in collaboration with researchers from the University College Cork and the Danish Technical University.

The database contains information extracted from peer-reviewed primary publications and key features include:

  • Unique combination of compositional data and biological effects
  • Data linked to authoritative plant and plant part lists
  • Comprehensive coverage of plant bioactives
  • Use of the LanguaL food description system

Within IFR, eBASIS links closely to the Food & Health ISP to underpin research studies and support/ refute health claim applications as well acquisition of new information about polyphenols, glucosinolates and bioactive peptides, and training for the next generation of researchers in the UK and internationally.

eBASIS can be accessed at by individual user name log in only. If you are interested in trying the database, please email Jenny Plumb has produced a walkthrough on YouTube to demonstrate the contents and functions of eBASIS.

History of the eBASIS database

The eBASIS system has its origins in composition databases developed in the 1990s covering quality assessed peer reviewed data  on natural toxicants in food plants namely NOTIS (Naturally Occurring Toxicant Information System) developed at the Institute of Food Research (IFR) in Norwich, and TOXIP (Naturally Occurring Toxicants in Food Plants) developed by the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration (DVFA), Copenhagen, Denmark. These two CD version databases were merged using the structure and organisation developed in the EU NETTOX project to produce the first BASIS (Bioactive Substances in Food Information System) database, funded as a Concerted Action under the EU FAIR programme (CT98-4419) from 1999 to 2001. The BASIS database extended the range of compounds covered, and the NETTOX list of food plants most commonly consumed in Europe was included.  The aim was to gather data on all these food plants and, for the first time, to include compounds with beneficial health effects, as well as potential toxicants.

The eBASIS database was further developed by IFR, University College Cork (UCC), Danish Technical University (DTU; formerly DVFA) and Danish Food Information into EuroFIR-BASIS with funding from EuroFIR NoE (FP6, 2005-10), and supported by other experts by combining compositional and biological information on potential protective bioactive compounds using information from published papers and similar critical assessment quality systems based on an internet-deployed rather than CD format.

EuroFIR-BASIS was designed to be compatible with the format, structure and organisation of the national nutrient composition databases, as well as common food description systems, such as LanguaL, the international framework for food description, to ensure that similar search terms could be used to search and retrieve information from both nutrients and bioactives from all databases.

The current eBASIS database has composition and bioeffects (both beneficial and toxicity) information on over 300 major European plant foods supported by data on 24 compound classes covering approximately 200 beneficial and 90 toxic bioactive compounds, such as glucosinolates, phytosterols, polyphenols, isoflavones, glycoalkaloids and xanthine alkaloids.



The ePlantLIBRA database has been developed as part of the FP7 PlantLIBRA project.

Food Databanks at IFR, together with EuroFIR AISBL, Danish Technical University, Polytec (Denmark) and University College Cork (Eire) have contributed to the development of ePlantLIBRA, a database describing quality assessed composition, beneficial and adverse effects information of biologically-active compounds in Plant Food Supplements and botanicals ingredients.  ePlantLIBRA development was based on three existing databases; eBASIS (Bioactive Substances in Food Information System), developed by EuroFIR; the MoniQA contaminants database, EU FP6-funded MoniQA (Monitoring and Quality Assurance in the total food supply chain) database; and Fera’s HorizonScan database.

ePlantLIBRA has been developed to produce a comprehensive, easily searchable database containing quality evaluated scientific information on Plant and Plant Food Supplement (PFS) bioactive compound composition, botanical information, beneficial bioactivity data and case-reports of adverse effects, as well as composition of potential contaminants.

A user-friendly, efficient and flexible interface is provided for searching, extracting, and exporting the data, including the references. Jenny Plumb has produced two walkthroughs to show you the structure and function of the plantlibra database:

The ePlantLIBRA database; an introduction to it’s contents, structure and function.

The ePlantLIBRA database; how to carry out searches and make reports