Apps to avoid the tricks of the food industry: why don't you agree?

Don't be taken cat by hare in the super, or, rather, don't buy sugars and fats of dubious quality just because the packaging ensures that a product is made "with the traditional recipe of the grandmother", because "it does not carry gluten or palm oil" , because it is "100% bio" or because it carries "five vitamins and iron". It's not a crime to buy a four-cheese pizza or a bag of chips, as long as you're clear that it's not the best menu, but there are less obvious examples that can escape our radar. And who can advise you among linear temptations and keep you firm in the boxes taken by the most appetizing treats? Your mobile phone,

The apps that scan the composition of food are already among us, have been born as a response to the tricks of the food industry to camouflage the nutritional information interesting to the consumer, and that is a good News. "They open their eyes to an area of knowledge that is not clear at all. Unless you're a dietitian-nutritionist, food technologist, or very familiar with the terms on the ingredient label or nutritional information, it's easy to take a healthy food that, in nutritional terms, isn't so much . And more if you only trust advertising," emphasizes dietitian-nutritionist Juan Revenga.

But there's a problem. The quality of the app advice depends on the algorithms behind the screen. In Spain, Yuka, El CoCo and MyRealFood lead consumer preferences. All three applications are free and serve the same: they scan the barcode of a product to know its nutritional composition. It seems simple, but it's not; a valuation can be made according to different parameters, and different parameters can result in different valuations. "Yuka forestates organic and additive-free foods, MyRealFood penalizes processing and CoCo simply reproduces notes in Nova and NutriScore. If we have all three and scan the same product we can get different results. Even Nova (a Brazilian balm that starts from the basis that ultra-processed correlates with the incidence of some diseases) and NutriScore (the color traffic light that weighs nutritional quality in terms of saturated fats, sugars, calories and sodium), Despite going in the same app, they don't have to match because they measure different things. And they can give shocking results from a nutritional point of view."

An example of how shocking the recommendations of these apps may be is that of Coca Cola Zero versus olive oil. For NutriScore, the first is a food B (the A is the best that can be obtained), while the evaluation of the second, according to the NutriScore algorithm, should be D, that is, a food to avoid consuming daily. Faced with the controversy, the Ministry of Health announced that this type of information, which will be mandatory before the end of the year, will not include foods made with a single ingredient such as "liquid gold", honey, milk and eggs. Cheeses don't get rid, they fall directly into categories D and E, which are the worst

. There's a world

The three apps that are attracting the attention of consumers have been born in the last two years: Yuka debuted in 2017, while The CoCo, which means The Responsible Consumer, and MyRealFood, began operating this year. But the criteria they use to score food are significantly different. 60% of Yuka's grade depends on the nutritional quality NutriScore would provide; 30% of whether it has additives or not, and the final 10% predicts that it is ecological or not. The last detail is important because it is the result of "chemophobia" that the Spanish authorities do not support, in fact, reiterating that additives authorized at the permitted doses are safe. The end result is a note out of 100, which is accompanied by a color code (from dark green for the best to orange and finally red for those who suspend). In addition, the app offers alternatives based on what you consider healthy, but what healthy substitutes are there for butter, for example? Isn't it exactly the fat that's interesting about this product?

Co's rating criteria are based on NOVA and NutriScore, although in the future they propose incorporating other nutritional suggestions. Interestingly, they are two systems that yield very different results for the same case, and questionable for others. For example, it penalizes processed products with C and D notes, which are not necessarily of poor nutritional quality. That a food is category 4 in Nova, as in the case of yoghurts, just because they have lactic ferments and whey protein, is misleading because that does not make them nutritionally harmful. Some canned white beans only reach the Nova 3 category, and just because they're in the boat, when in NutriScore, instead, they have the A of the outstanding.

The commitment of MyRealFood, the app that was born by the dietitian-nutritionist Carlos Ríos, is to reduce the amount of processed foods we eat daily, and to promote easier, market nutrition. This approach is reinforced by the possibility of exchanging ideas, recipes and advice with others, as well as with tracking meals of the day, with an assessment of whether they are real food or not. If Yuka and El Coco parameters differ, MyRealFood's parameters are even further away, since it't so much about analyzing nutritional quality directly as it is about identifying which foods are further away from ultraprocessing, a measure rather Indirect.

"h3 lang"zxx" xml:lang"zxx">Not everything is scannable, not everything is harmful

As it may seem, eating things aren't everything when it comes to this kind of applications.& not only provide information to consumers, they also give them some power with which to force the industry to change the composition of some choosing or discarding certain products has a significant impact if a large enough group of people do. "The industry does not manufacture anything that is not sold. Your business is clear: satisfy the consumer's desires for profit. It doesn't guide them to make things healthy, but there's also no plot to make them harmful. They just make what sells best. Here comes the power of the consumer: if there is a change of mindset towards foods with a healthier nutritional profile, the industry will have to manufacture them," says Revenga.

Now, not everything is scannable. Not everything scannable is harmful. Only those barcode foods are scanned, although you can check the nutritional value of fresh products. But is everything that comes packaged from the super bad? Although only 40% of the basket of the purchase of Spaniards are fresh products, according to data from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, that does not mean that 60% packaged is a nutritional cataclysm. Eye: nor that everything that is cooked at home with a thousand loves and simmerist is recommended,

"Grandmas' homemade cake is lovingly made. But the honey isn't publicly traded in terms of food, Bring milk, eggs, butter or oil and sugar. If we stick to carbohydrates, sugars, fats and minerals, it's not far from that of the supermarket. And it's not highly recommended. Instead, boat-cooked chickpeas are a healthy and inexpensive alternative (saving the energy we would spend at home cooking them also counts). They're prosecuted, yes. They carry preservative, yes (citric acid or E-385). But they're not harmful. In my opinion, we must avoid the absurd chemophobia towards authorised additives and start eating better." Whether it's a cell phone aside or without it,