Estimated reading time: 5 minutes, 20 seconds

ewgThe Environmental Working Group (EWG)'s mission is to improve people's lives by empowering them to eat healthier and live a more active lifestyle. They focus on educating their constituents to make nutritious choices for themselves and their families. With ingredients you can't pronounce on foods that you love, it can get difficult deciphering whether or not that product is harmful to you. And if in fact it is bad for you how bad is it?

In Use:
To answer these questions EWG developed a mobile app called Food Scores that allows users to scan the barcodes of food products to see if they are healthy or not. The food in question will be given a rating from 1-10. One being, healthy and 10 being unhealthy. To come up with this number, EWG breaks each food down into three groups; Nutrition, Ingredient concerns, and Processing.  

Nutrition deals with how nutritious the food is. Ingredient concerns looks at what ingredients are found in the food product. Are these ingredients organic? Does the product have natural sugar or was there sugar added to the product to make it taste better? Third, Processing deals with how the food is made. Is there a chance that the product was made with genetically modified foods? If it's a dairy product did the manufacturers use antibiotics and hormones on the milk cows?

For instance, I scanned Yoplait Lactose Free Low Fat Yogurt. The FWG app gave the yogurt a 5 out of 10 rating. Compared to other yogurts it was about average. Most yogurts receive a score of 5 while healthier brands received a 2 and unhealthier yogurts received a 7. Next, the app broke down the score for me. I found out that while the yogurt is wholesome, the ingredients could be more natural. I should also worry about how my yogurt is made. Next, EWG's app gave me their top finds. For instance; this particular yogurt is not organic and more than likely contains food additives. And, like many dairy products hormones and antibiotics were likely used in the production of the dairy ingredients. I also found out that there is a strong possibility that the ingredients that went into my yogurt could in fact be genetically modified.

So what does this all mean? To me, it means that my yogurt is not as healthy as I thought it would be but, I can't say I was surprised. Am I going to throw my yogurt in the trash because it could have been made with GMO ingredients or because antibiotics and hormones were likely used in creating this? That's a personal decision. For me, the benefits of yogurt out weight the negative effects of yogurt. It's packed with calcium and has natural yeast that is beneficial to my body. While I don't like that there's added sugar I can keep this in mind the next time I purchase Yoplait yogurt.

And that is exactly what this app wants you, the user to do. It wants you to think about what you're putting in your body and weighing the negative and positives of eat food that you eat. It wants to show you that this food you're about to consume is not healthy for you so maybe instead of reaching for dessert in the form of ice cream, you have fruit instead.

Technology Used:
In order to use this app you must have a smartphone whether it's an iPhone or Android. If you do not have a smartphone you can still get scores for your favorite foods on their website; Food Scores.

Ease of Use:
This app is self explanatory. Once you scan a product all the pertinent information will show up. If you do have questions, their website has a FAQ section that will answer many of your questions.

Recap:
EWG's Food Scores app is an app that forces users to think about the foods they are eating. Instead of reaching for a donut for breakfast without thinking of the consequences, EWG breaks down why a donut is OK once in awhile but why you shouldn't reach for it every morning.

It does this by breaking down each food into three groups; Nutrition, Ingredient concerns, and Processing to show why exactly that donut isn't the best option for your morning commute.

Advantages:

  • Our society just eats what they want now and thinks about it later when they've gained ten pounds or are diagnosed with high blood pressure.  EWG's Food Scores app lets users make the decision before they consume the product.

  • With a scanner, this product is super easy to use. If you can't find the barcode of a product, you can enter the product's name.

  • It breaks each concern down for you. For example; "This product is not organic" or "this product has added sugar." This helps someone who is on a low sodium diet or who can't eat a lot of fat figure out which foods to stay away from. Because what's OK for me to eat might not be OK for you to eat based on our diets, our health risks, or our bodies.

  • Gets people to look at our foods as well as to look at the ingredients. Those cinnamon and sugar covered almonds might look delicious but when you realize that there is corn maltodextrin (a highly processed food) you might opt to purchase plain almonds and bake them in cinnamon and sugar at home thus, eliminating the corn maltodextrin.

    Disadvantages:

  • I spent a whole morning scanning products and most of the time the app could not read the barcode. I would have to manually enter each product. This is time consuming and may deter some users from using the app.

  • There were various items I couldn't find in the app which made it discouraging.

  • My Opinion:
    I wish the app itself worked better. I couldn't find a lot of common foods on the apps which made me discouraged. Not to mention the scanner hardly ever works which makes the app slow and tedious. Hopefully this is just a glitch in the app that will be fixed soon.

    With that being said, I believe this app is a good first step to someone looking to change their diets and lifestyle. It allows them to be accountable for the foods they eat. It also comes in handy for people who don't wish to eat GMO foods or who wants to strictly eat organic.
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    Danielle Loughnane

    Danielle Loughnane earned her B.F.A. in Creative Writing from Emerson College and has currently been working in the data science field since 2015. She is the author of a comic book entitled, “The Superhighs” and wrote a blog from 2011-2015 about working in the restaurant industry called, "Sir I Think You've Had Too Much.” In her spare time she likes reading graphic novels and snuggling with her dogs.

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