Can we trust the nutritional apps that scan products?
In recent months supermarkets have filled up with people scanning products With their mobiles. What they do is read the barcodes of the products to know if they should buy them or not. For this they use different apps that, when reading the code, “translate” the ingredients of the food according to their ingredients and report them, or directly issue a punctuation or verdict about how healthy they are. But how reliable is the information they give us
The ones that stand out the most are four: Yuka, MyRealFood and El CoCo.
Yucca: This app was created by the Frenchman François Benoit, a parent who was looking for how to make information about labeling accessible. It is very popular in France, with more than 10 million users. Price: free How does it work? Yuka evaluates food and cosmetics. As for the nutritional analysis, after scanning the barcode, the tool scores each product over 100, based on three criteria: 60% of the grade: the Nutri-Score rating. 30% of the note: penalizes the presence of additives based on reports from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the French health security agency (ANSES), the International Cancer Research Center (CIIC) and Other independent studies. 10% of the mark: it is positive if the product has the European ecological label. This seal does not always guarantee that the product has met all the criteria of sustainable production. When the product suspends, the app proposes better evaluated alternatives.
Financing. According to the company, it comes from the annual fee of 15 euros for premium subscriptions and 59 euros from the Nutrition Program – only available in France -, through which it offers knowledge about food, recipes and access to nutritionists.
Carlos Rios, nutritionist and guru of the ‘realfooding’ movement on Instagram, is the one who sets the tone for this application. He defines his proposal as a healthy lifestyle based on consuming what he calls "real food"and run away from the ultraprocessed. Price: free
Do youHow does it work? The basis of this application is the community of realfooders: “They create content by proposing healthy recipes and motivate each other,” explains Carlos Ríos. To avoid hoaxes, the app sets moderators that eliminate or deny any information not in accordance with scientific evidence.
This application classifies products into three groups according to the Real Food Index: real food, good processed and ultraprocessed. This index has been created by Carlos Ríos himself from the NOVA system. This classification, created in 2010 by the University of São Paulo, groups food according to the degree of processing. "We have simplified it with the help of a team of dietitians-nutritionists and lawyers who are experts in labeling regulation, seeking the greatest ease for the user," he adds. In this app there is room for additives: "Report your presence and indicate if it is safe or controversial based on scientific studies," says Rios.
Shows the Nova and Nutriscore classifications. The first classifies the degree of food processing between 1 – not processed or minimally processed – and 4 (ultraprocessed). The second measures nutritional quality based on nutrients and simplifies labeling with a 5-letter code ranging from A (excellent) to E (very bad), using colors ranging from green to red to facilitate visual recognition. The app recommends always looking first at the degree of processing to discard ultraprocessed and, from there, use Nutriscore to find the best options within each group.
How do you rate or recommend? It does not, it only gives the information (taken from OpenFoodFacts). They are working on a rating system in one of the 17 categories established by the WHO by assigning them a maximum level of calories, salt, sugar or fat, crossed with the Nova system and with the Chilean warning system as an addition.
Do youThen we may or may not trust?
Not at all. We start from the premise that additives are part of the nutritional assessments of a product, so we can't just look at additives. The truth is that the nutritional value of a product is the sum of several things.
Also many times misunderstand the ingredients. For example, Yuka penalizes even the ascorbic acid, which is nothing other than vitamin C, so many manufacturers are adding vitamin C to its products for the antioxidant function.
Experts recommend that instead of getting carried away by what a app, learn to read the ingredients, it is important that you know what it is that you are looking to translate into "common" language a lot of what the product labels hide.