How Fooducate Grades Products

Fooducate automatically grades foods and beverage on a scale from A to D. There are 10 distinct grades: A, A-, B+, B, B-, C+, C, C-, D+, and D.

Fooducate’s  algorithm is based on information that is publicly available on a product’s package: the nutrition facts panel and the ingredient list. We do not receive any additional information from manufacturers.

The algorithm rewards minimally processed, nutrient dense foods with the highest grades. This means that real foods, with intrinsic nutrients will score better than processed foods that are poor in built-in nutrients and use fortification as a means to appear healthy.

We’ll explain:

Nutrients – Fooducate’s algorithms add points for nutrients to encourage such as fiber, calcium, and iron. The algorithms detract points for nutrients to limit such as saturated fat, sodium, and sugar.

Ingredients – The ingredient list is very important as it tells the story behind the nutrients. Imagine a piece of cardboard that was sprayed with 11 vitamins and minerals, then peppered with “natural” flavors, coated with an artificial sweetener, and colored with Red #40 (a controversial artificial food dye). Under some rating systems, this product would actually score very well due to its low calorie count and multitude of nutrients.

This type of product does not fly at Fooducate. We look for real ingredients that have many more beneficial nutrients to offer than the 5 or 10 a manufacturer may add to a product.

A product’s category also influences its score. Each product that is added to our database is categorized. Categories can be  breakfast cereal, yogurt, bread, snacks, etc… In each category, we look at the most relevant nutrients and ingredients and give them more weight compared to others. For example – fiber is a very important nutrient in breads and cereals, but really not to be expected in yogurt.

Some categories can span the entire range of grades from D to A. Others span a smaller range – for example fruits can rate between a B+ to an A, sweetened carbonated soft drinks from D to C- at most, and popcorn from a C to an A-.

Processing – products that go through heavy processing rate lower than products that you could probably prepare at home with household ingredients. For example – a snack bar with just dates and nuts will score higher than a bar with 30 ingredients, many of which are not found in peoples’ kitchens. We can impute the level of processing by analyzing the product ingredient list.

Fortification – Adding ascorbic acid (lab made vitamin C) to a product to reach 100% of the daily value of vitamin C, does not make the product “nutritious” by our algorithms. Conversely, a red bell pepper that naturally contains high levels of vitamin C will rate high.

 

If you think a product you scanned rated too high or too low, please let us know by emailing support at fooducate dot com.

 

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  • Emily

    So it’s strictly based upon an algorithm based, in turn upon fooducate’s arbitrary opinion, then?

    And invented “categories”, ha ha! ROFLMAO!

    Sadly, you ARE serious about this farce. Out there misinforming the public. Pretty sleazy way to make a living.

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  • Bregt

    So the way it is produced and the ecological impact is not measured in this grading system?

    • http://www.fooducate.com/ Fooducate

      Eventually we hope to provide additional information.

      • Cloé Marité

        yes please. including: pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, freshness, packaging, shipping, ‘artificial ripening’… haha. you have your work cut out for you.

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  • heather

    There is a word missing in the last sentence under ingredients. “this product will actually score very “_”due to its . . .. .

    • Cloé Marité

      yeah, a smattering of typos/small gramatical mistakes throughout the site … no biggie, i think everyone still understands what you’re getting at. you might consider a copy editor for the long run though ;)

  • Polly

    I like what you’re doing here. Have you considered adding Processed-free Glutamic Acid (MSG)? I know there are off-the-shelf products out there that are GMO and MSG and basically chemical-free (Kavli crackers, Nature’s Path Organic Honey’d Corn Flakes). It would be great if someone gave these products a marketing boost to help them STAY on the market. Highlighting MSG/Processed-free Glutamic Acid would let people know when they are eating it, regardless of what the label says. I’m confused by the great organizations who educate about seemingly everything else but MSG. Yet, many companies slap “no MSG”, “no added MSG”, “all natural” on foods that contain the flavor booster (processed-free glutamic acid). I assume this indicates that no MSG is important to consumers.

    • rachel

      I also would like to see this app ‘flag’ and item when it contains MSG since there are various names that indicate MSG.

      • http://www.fooducate.com/ Fooducate

        This app does flag MSGs and their variants

  • chris

    please continue to do good. thank you for your app.

  • http://www.facebook.com/noel.mathur.3 Noel Mathur

    With few products I noticed that the products with artificial sweeteners are getting better ranks than the ones with sugar. If asked, I would rather otherwise. I would prefer to eat sugar as opposed to Splenda.

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  • Student

    Do you have any dietitians on your staff? I’m a skeptic without information of professional input.

    • http://www.fooducate.com/ Fooducate

      Yes. The algorithm was developed by a team that included scientists, dietitians, and software engineers.

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  • Shannon

    I am concerned that products containing GMOs and HFCS get good grades on your system and that containing GMOs is not even flagged. I don’t think I would trust your grading system given those flaws.

    • http://www.fooducate.com/ Fooducate

      GMOs can be flagged by switching that feature to YES – see this http://blog.fooducate.com/2012/10/16/why-just-california-fooducate-provides-gmo-info-on-over-200000-products/
      The app also advises when a product has HFCS.

      Keep in mind that no single grading system is perfect for everyone.

      • blackHoleOblivion

        To that last point; while technically correct, I think we can agree that avoiding sugar (aside from naturally-occurring fructose in whole fruit and lactose in dairy, sans those with intolerance to them) and chemicals is a high priority and should always be considered. Those two points are my main dietary concerns, as they are the major contributors to inflammation.

  • Student

    How closely do your grading criteria match that of the USDA, FDA, CDC, etc.?

  • Chris

    Does the app address whether foods are GMO free?

    • http://www.fooducate.com/ Fooducate

      Yes, registered users can opt to see warnings about GMO.

  • John

    This is one fantastic app! I’m really relieved to see someone taking the initiative to disclose in much detail the effects, purposes and reasoning behind many of the ingredients found in foods.

    One thing I would love to see taken into account that may not already be considered is the inclusion of fluoride in water products and/or foods. Since fluoride has been proven to be a toxic substance, ironically negatively affecting teeth, particularly those of young children, I’ve been more adamant about making sure this stays out of my system.

    Great work, Fooducate, continue spreading the knowledge!

  • W

    Thanks Fooducate, this (for me) is the BEST app EVER! I appreciate what you provide and it has really helped me in making better and healthier food choices!

    • http://www.fooducate.com/ Fooducate

      You’re most welcome!

  • Olga

    Thank you for all the wonderful information. Do you plan on making this app available in Canada?

    • Jessica Schuessler

      Yes, would love to see Canadian product information…

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  • texasmomma3

    Do you have any plans of included information regarding genetically modified ingredients?

    • http://www.fooducate.com/ Fooducate

      We already do!
      You can specify “warn me about GMOs” in your settings.

  • Roger

    When are you going to release your app for the windows phones?

    Thank you.

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  • Nancy

    It says there are 10 distinct grades, however there are only 9 listed. Are you leaving out “A-”?

    • http://www.fooducate.com/ Fooducate

      A- as well. Thanks for spotting that!

  • http://twitter.com/js_885 Joshua Stone

    I would love to see this app flag Gluten Free foods. Would be very helpful for Celiacs!

    • http://www.fooducate.com/ Fooducate

      We have a premium version on the App Store that does exactly that.

  • anricca

    I downloaded the app before I went food shopping and what a difference it made. I usually spend a lot of time reading labels and I used the app for the initial yeah/nay in the cart screening. Then read the fine print on the box. I like the idea you give alternative suggestions. I still have a few weaknesses like the package of Oreo’s, but it’s up to me if it goes in the cart. I now have a tool for wiser choices. KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK and Kudos to you.

    • http://www.fooducate.com/ Fooducate

      Thanks!

    • Traz

      Trader Joe’s grocery store has a great alternative to Oreo’s. Give them a try!

  • Keys

    Is there an option to Highlight or filter out products that contain Aspartame?

    • http://www.fooducate.com/ Fooducate

      The app flags all artificial sweeteners, including aspartame

  • ANJ

    Is this app available in Canada?

  • http://www.facebook.com/janeen.yurdiga Janeen Yurdiga

    Wondering when it going to be available in Canada, can’t down load the app at all.:(

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  • Sarah

    I am hoping that a future update will add wheat as an allergy listing to look for!

  • http://twitter.com/GizaTheCat L Gaebe

    Your apps are a great start…..but it’s mostly for processed foods. Boo hiss! How about developing an app where you enter all the ingredients of your HOME COOKED meals and “grade” it like you do the processed food items. My household has gone beyond processed foods and we cook from scratch. How would I quickly find out the nutritional value of my cooked from scratch pomodoro sauce?

    • Cloé Marité

      basic math skills…? a tiny bit of research and ingenuity? basically all food has nutritional info on the label. if your household has gone ‘beyond processed foods’, perhaps your household could also educate itself and ‘go beyond’ relying on quick-fixes to tell you you’re doing the right thing. this app is clearly AIMED at a segment of the population that is still in the beginning stages of transition towards nutritional enlightenment. do you also tell your apples they should taste more like orange?

      • flamom55

        Cloe: you’ve got quite the little attitude – don’t ya? Sorry to say, but you’re coming off as a little “B”. People are just discussing here and offering suggestion for product improvement (which I’m sure the company loves). Your reply to L Gaebe was uncalled for. Play nice!

    • Cloé Marité
    • Jurisrachel

      In a basic way, you can get nutritional info for your own recipes by entering ingredients using a feature of an app like MyFitnessPal. It won’t “rate” your meals though. Hope that’s helpful. :)

      • Meghan Heasley

        Why do meals need to be “rated” anyway? If you know what’s in them and the nutrients in them, like My Fitness Pal does, what does purpose does a grade provide? Self-esteem for getting a good grade? Seems rather silly to me.

    • ExpatChic

      Check out ‘My Fitness Pal’ (www.myfitnesspal.com). They have an online calculator where you enter your recipes and it provides the nutritional information. You then have the option to add the recipe to their database (for the rest of the community to use).

    • kc

      go to nutritiondata.self.com put in your recipe and it will analize it it worked for me

    • Antoinette Champeau

      I just joined the app with a lifetime membership. I cook all my food and would like away to enter a home cooked meal without having to enter every single ingredient.

  • Cleo

    Wow! My daughter, who is 13 years old, loves the app. She became more health conscious as a result of this app.
    Thanks.

  • Susi

    Among artificial sweeteners, Stevia seems by all acounts to be the best choice, since it is plant based, but you only give it a C. Why is that? When I read about the dangers of aspartame which occurs in so many things like diet soft drinks, it seems logical to me to go with Stevia.

    • http://www.fooducate.com/ Fooducate

      Sweeteners never rate high.
      C is the best grade in the non nutritive sweetener category.

      • Stephanie

        It is rather deceiving however to grade all sweeteners no higher than a C as not all sweeteners are created equal (as mentioned in the above post). It can be confusing for the consumer when they are attempting to choose between sweeteners. Stevia, if in a pure unadulterated form, does not raise or influence blood sugar. Consumers would also only use a miniminal amount as it is 300x sweeter than sugar. Rating sweeteners on some sort of scale would assist consumer in locating smart choices in sweeteners (stevia, coconut sugar, or natural sweeteners like dates or applesauce over harmful artifical ones like aspartame or Splenda). I completely agree with limiting even natural sugar intake, but it would be difficult for the average person to decifer how to choose the best sweetener when they do need to use one if you grade none of them higher than a C.

        • Cloé Marité

          i agree, i find the “C is the A of X-category” concept a little confusing to work around.

        • BloomDaddy

          They are rated a C or lower because THEY ARE NOT GOOD FOR YOU! If there was one that was good for you Im sure it would be given a B+ or something like that, but the fact of the matter is, sugars make you fat.

          • Stephanie

            Of course eating a lot of sugar is not good for you. As stated in my previous post, I am talking about a limited consumption of sugar. Most people, if their body is working correctly, do not have an issue consuming sugars from natural sources – like fruit – in moderation. I do understand and agree that if individuals are watching their weight or need to lose weight, they should definitely not consume more than about 15 grams of fructose a day (and then, only from natural sources). Refined flours also are metabolized similar to sugar in the body and contribute to weight gain, however, refined flours and breads are not rated low. I am just saying that for those who are choosing to use some type of sugar whether in a recipe or a product, it would be useful for them to determine which would be best to use among the sweeteners. For example, choosing homemade applesauce or a tiny bit of local, raw honey to sweeten a dessert instead of Spenda or refined white sugar. Perhaps there should a rating system among the sweeteners. Because I definitely DO NOT agree that all sweeteners are created equal. Artifical or refined sweeteners WILL react differently in the body and that should be taken into account.

          • Stephanie

            OF COURSE a lot of sugar is not good for your health. As stated in my previous post, I am talking about a limited consumption of sugars. Most people, if their bodies are working correctly, do not have an issue with consuming sugars from natural sources – like fruit – in moderation. However, those that are overweight or are seeking to lose weight, they definitely should not consume more than 15 grams of fructose per day. Refined flours also are metabolized in a similar way to sugar in the body and can contribute to weight gain, but those products are not rated so low. I am just saying for those who wish to incorporate a limited amount of sugar into their diet – whether in a recipe or product – that it would be useful for them to understand the differences between sweeteners. For instance, it is healthier to use applesauce or a tiny bit of local, raw honey in a recipe instead of Splenda or refined white sugar. So perhaps a rating scale just for sweeteners needs to be incorporated. Because I definitely DO NOT agree that all sugars or foods that contain some form of sugar or fructose are created equal. Artifical sweeteners WILL react differently in the body than natural fruit sugars or raw honey. I do recognize that everyone is different and everyone’s diet should be customized to what their bodies can handle, but I believe that, consumed in moderation (under 15 grams of fructose a day or something similar) along with a healthy, unprocessed, real food diet, natural sugars from fruit and raw honey will NOT make you fat.

  • Reina Hibbert

    I’ve downloaded the app and am very excited to go shopping. Can you please tell me if you are funded by any brands in particular? Based on your case studies, I feel it necessary to ask if there are any big $$ that might coerce or bias your grading system.

    • http://www.fooducate.com/ Fooducate

      We’re not funded by any food companies.

  • Ally

    where did you get your nutritional content? Is it available online somewhere or did you have to purchase the data…and how often is it refreshed/updated?

    • http://www.fooducate.com/ Fooducate

      We collect the nutrition information and ingredient lists as they appear on the packages of food. The data is submitted as picture taken by users of the app. We have a data team that keys in the nutrition data and a QA team that verifies it. Once a product’s data is entered into the system, our automated grading algorithm rates grades it.

  • Steph

    Any chance you’re going to make the Allergy & Gluten Free App for Android users?!?!?! I absolutely love this app.
    While I don’t have allergies, I’m nursing and my son is intolerant to milk & soy right now-it’d be great to know what I can and can’t eat by a quick click of the phone!

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  • ML Fitz

    I applaud your efforts!! Bravo! What about GMOs, i.e., non-organic Soy milk, and antibiotic sprayed organic apples? I realize the food landmines are overwhelming, so please know that I really do appreciate your efforts!

  • elmtree

    I LOVE THIS APP SO MUCH! Do you think that you guys could make one that could help people lose weight? Thanks!

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  • Cloé Marité

    hello foodeducate. very interesting initiative you have here. i really appreciate that you are making people aware of over-processed food as a serious health hazard, this is a sorely needed awareness here in north america.

    (to reiterate the sentiments of a few other posts…) i do however have concerns that your algorithm may be putting out some slightly misleading results. it doesn’t seem to recognize that not all versions of an ingredient are created equal.

    i do not wish to poo-poo your endeavour because i think you are doing a good thing, but i do want you to consider that putting plastic-wrapped, genetically super-sized, pesticide and wax coated, picked green and shipped across continents and/or stored for months at a time only to be ethane-ripened in the back of a truck “fresh” FRUITS and VEGETABLES on par with the ‘local’ (or at the very least) naturally grown and harvested, sun-ripened variety, is somewhat … confusing, if not dangerous.

    foods lose vital enzyms and nutrients during processing, packaging and storing processes… and many of the foods that are not allowed to ripen naturally between the sun and the earth simply never develop them. i am certain you are aware of this, it’s intrinsic to your message really, but i’m not sure the information is exactly ‘getting across’.

    sadly, i think in someways your app may be facilitating the processed/corporate monopoly on “food” as a concept dictated to us by labels, rather than our most vital connection to life, health, and the ecological system that sustains us.

    i realize i’m not the target of your app, since i was lucky enough to be raised on -and educated about- whole foods… but i do see a lot of people i care about struggling to make informed choices, and i can see how this would be an incredibly useful tool for them… i would hate to see your innovation end up as another ‘white-washing’ (or perhaps ‘green-washing’?) of harmful food-industry practices.

    without an analysis of where and how these brands are obtaining the ingredients for their products, there is too much grey area for your rating system to be a reliable nutritional information source. and too much potential to uphold rather than overturn the misinformation of consumers.

    you may be right half the time, even most of the time… but the general population still ends up with a false sense of confidence and security about their choices… how is that any different from the standard ‘food guide’ or labeling information?

    to conclude this very long diatribe (congratulations if you’ve made it this far) i really like the section under each product rating where you have a small ‘discussion’ about certain aspects of said product… i.e. “multigrain is not wholegrain” and “contains controversial use of BHT.” i think the more you can focus on educating people, and empowering them to make suitable choices for themselves (rather than blindly relying on an algorithm that can never anticipate accurately all the many and mutable variables of this complex planet) the more powerful this tool will be, and the more beneficial to those who really need it.

    oh, and GMO alerts should be standard, not optional :)

    thanks for taking the time to read this, and all the best.

    cloé

  • B

    I too would like to see the appmavailable in the canadian store. Any hope of this? The app is developed so how come we cant use it? I have’t seen any Fooducate responses to these questions yet.

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  • james

    how to enter own recipie values

  • Stan

    So, 9 months ago Heather pointed out a missing word in the paragraph, yet it has not been updated. Any chance you could update the site? It would be nice.

    heather • 9 months ago

    There is a word missing in the last sentence under ingredients. “this product will actually score very “_”due to its . . .. .

    • Meghan Heasley

      Wow, calm down. It’s not the end of the world. Obviously they have a lot of work on their hands, more important than a typo.

  • AIL

    Once I have searched a product, for example “vegetable oil,” is there a way to order by grade? Thanks! Love your product.

  • Nicole G

    This app has literally changed my life. I did not realize how many products had so many bad ingredients and GMOs. I am now eating GMO free products and all natural organic, also switch my hubby and kid to this. I have seen a few products with high grades yet they have GMOs and artificial ingredients, and products that are natural with maybe high sugar so they get a low grade. That can detour someone from eating a healthy product because of high natural sugar and going to a product with many harmful chemicals. But everyone has their own opinion on the grade system.
    I love the app and purchased the full version well worth it.

    You change my life fooducate. I LOVE U!!

    • http://www.fooducate.com/ Fooducate

      You’re welcome :-)

  • Curious

    What is a GMO? What is HFCS?

    • Nicole G

      Genetically Modified Organism and High Fructose Corn Syrup.
      Google it and you will find ALOT!

  • Ana

    I love your app!
    I have Celiac, so Gluten information is the most important to me. I wish you could add more items to your list.

  • Robin Shaffer

    What about products with MSG? Does your app detect that as well?

    • http://www.fooducate.com/ Fooducate

      Yes

  • Dave Sill

    What have you got against saturated fat?
    Do starches count against a food like sugar does?

    I like what you’re trying to do, but without knowing what decisions you’ve made in your algorithm and what those decision are based upon, I’ll have a hard time accepting your scores and recommending the app to others.

  • Dave

    The Fooducate premise that “Adding ascorbic acid (lab made vitamin C) to a product to reach 100% of the daily value of vitamin C, does not make the product “nutritious” by our algorithms” seems a little subjective. Adding nutrients to food is a proven benefit and can help people whose circumstances (allergies, economics, education, etc.) don’t permit receiving all nutrients from a “real ingredients” source. The general intent of this site is a good one though.

  • Shobhna

    Very helpful App..my kids ages 12 and 8 love it too. Now they check all the food items grade value before adding it to our grocery cart..Keep doing the good work and enhancing your app! Thanks.

  • Michelle Potter

    How do the ratings change when you set your personal goals to include “eating for healthy breastfeeding”?

  • Jane Addams

    I admit I have not been on this blog in a long time however
    it was joy to find it again. It is such an important topic and ignored by so
    many even professionals! I thank you for helping to make people more aware of
    these issues. Just great stuff as per usual!

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  • ryan

    I don’t understand how extremely processed frosted mini wheats gets an A-, while Suja natural lemon juice gets a B. Makes no sense to me at all! lemons and water with a pinch of stevia get a lower grade than FROSTED mini wheats? That’s so messed up!

  • ryan

    I don’t understand how extremely processed frosted mini wheats gets an A-, while Suja natural lemon juice gets a B. Makes no sense to me at all! lemons and water with a pinch of stevia get a lower grade than FROSTED mini wheats? That’s so messed up! Can someone explain this to me?

  • Rebecca

    My question has to do with hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils (trans fats) as I believe this is the single-most harmful ingredient in many processed foods today. I hope all of those will receive an F as the human body simply cannot process that strange version of fat.

  • Pandora Brinker

    Bad reaction to Splenda with heart defect.

  • Jessica

    I agree on the sugar issue with many other people. Anything with artificial sweeteners should be downgraded, and also, take the USDA sugar allowance and figure out how much is an alllowable/reasonable level–say for cereals–and grade the sugar cereals accordingly.

  • sam

    I just downloaded the app. I chose this app because of the convenience of the health grade. However, I typed in a food item and different grades came up for the same item… same brand, flavor etc but it had a B grade in one image and a B + option in another. Why does this happen ?

  • MrAugie Augenstein

    Saturated animal fats are healthy so your rating is outdated, This has been known for more than 20 yrs and shown in a large study by NIH released last week

  • KHALID KALEEM

    The factors that enable educated to rate it’s products are sodium, saturated fats, calories, and preservatives and sugar; This is helpful to my decision making because I can feel confident that it is giving reliable information; because it has reliable information it’s self.