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Yuka Food Ratings come from three weighted considerations:

  • 60% of the Nutri-Score
  • 30% additives
  • 10% depending on whether the product is organic

The Nutri-Score is used in many European countries, including Yuka’s native France. It is a simple five-color label that ranks foods from A to E. Attributes such as high energy density, sugar content, saturated fatty acids and salt negatively affect the Nutri-Score, while fibers ; protein content; and the presence of fruit, vegetables or rapeseed, nut or olive oil positively affects the score. The lower the score, the better.

Food labeling differs from country to country. Nutri-Score comes from the nutrient profiling system developed by the British Food Standards Agency, but, confusingly, the UK uses a traffic light system instead, with color ratings for energy , fat, saturated fatty acids, sugar and salt. The United States relies on the FDA’s Nutrition Facts label, which breaks things down into a percentage of your recommended daily intake.

Some of what Yuka covers is included in current labels in Europe, but the application also takes into account potentially harmful additives. For example, Diet Coke is green with the Traffic Light system, but it appears orange in Yuka, which rates it 41/100 due to various additives (specifically, E950, E951, E150d, and E338). Press E950 (acesulfame K) into Yuka, and you learn that it is an intense sweetener rated negatively because it does not help with weight control and may promote metabolic disorders, such as glucose intolerance . Yuka says the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is currently reassessing the sweetener’s safety. If you want to research further, the app provides links to articles.

A matter of trust

Yuka is an independent business that makes money from the sale of books and calendars, a nutrition program, and subscriptions to premium apps ($14 a year gets you access to a search bar, a mode offline, unlimited history, and custom alerts for things like gluten or lactose). Crucially, the company accepts no advertising money, “We just say no,” Francois told me, and none of its ratings or recommendations are influenced by brands. When recommending alternatives to low-rated products, those suggestions are based on matching categories, higher ratings, and local availability.

Yuka started with food, but user requests prompted her to add notes on cosmetics. The evaluation of cosmetics evaluates the potential effects on health and the environment, it therefore considers whether the products are endocrine disruptors, carcinogens, allergens, irritants or pollutants. While cosmetics ratings are based on scientific research, they lack an independent framework like Nutri-Score to inform them.

I was alarmed to find that the hand soap I buy regularly scored 0/100 from Yuka due to the presence of benzophenone-1, an endocrine disruptor “which easily crosses the skin barrier and is then behaves like female hormones.” As I began to read about this and many other potentially dangerous chemicals that Yuka reported in almost all of our family cosmetics, I felt increasingly anxious.