What is Open Food Facts?

[Article updated on 19/09/2023]

The era of new technologies has opened us to different news
ways of informing ourselves, of thinking and even of acting. There are many tools and applications today that make this easier.

Before reading on

I’m not an expert in this field, but I am passionate about nutrition and health.

The articles you’ll find on my site are the result of in-depth research that I’d like to share with you. However, I would like to stress that I am not a health professional and that my advice should in no way replace that of a qualified physician. I’m here to guide you, but it’s important that you consult a professional for specific questions or medical concerns. Your well-being is important. So be sure to consult the appropriate experts and take the best possible care of yourself.

Concerning the Open Food Facts application recently made available to Internet users, it is possible to find out a little more about a food product before purchasing it. How it works ?

Open Food Facts

What is this ?

Open Food Facts is an online and mobile database project. An association was thus created to inform Internet users about the foods present on the market.

The basic idea is to provide information on any food product, reveal what it really contains and give ratings based on their nutritional contributions.

The association has continued to grow since its creation and aims to integrate ever more data.

Open Food Facts
Open Food Facts is a database that informs consumers about the contents of foods

A database

To better understand how Open Food Facts works, you need to understand what a database is.

Like a gigantic hard drive, it collects information or raw data concerning an activity. They can be interdependent while being of different natures. The basis of this information is usually located in the same place and on a single computerized medium for easier and faster handling.

In other words, a database makes it possible to better sort and combine saved information.

Evolution of Open Food Facts

It all started in 2012 thanks to a computer scientist named Stéphane Gigandet.

In 2016, 83,000 products were listed in 141 countries. The following year, the base welcomed more than 326,000. At the end of 2018, the site reached 720,000 described and noted.

Note that anyone can modify the database
and add products based on their packaging. More and more Internet users are starting to use the application.

Public and scientific recognition

The initiative is recognized by several entities. This allowed the association to win several distinctions, namely:

  • The Dataconnexions prize in 2013 awarded by Etalab, a mission placed within the Interministerial Digital Directorate and of the State information and communication system;
  • The Daniel Tixxier Chair Prize, Grande ESSEC consumption, in 2015;
  • The Commission’s first Datathon prize European co-organized with the European Food Safety Authority.

Evolution of the project

Thanks to the expansion of the association and given the honorable reasons for its founding, other projects continue to expand, namely Open Beauty Facts, Open Pet Food Facts and Open Products Facts.

Open Food Facts accumulates food data and presents them sorted and categorized according to different criteria.

How it works ?

Thanks to a mobile application connected to the official Open Food Facts website, a multitude of information concerning a product is accessible to Internet users. The name, category, ingredients or food additives up to the places of manufacturing or processing are accessible and, above all, easy to read.

Open Food Facts also allows you to compare similar products on the market.

If you access the site for first time, you will find some descriptions concerning the association.

The page displays a list of images covering several products recently added by Internet users. A tab allows you to sort them according to a category of your choice: brands, packaging, origins of ingredients, places of manufacturing or processing, packager codes, ingredients, additives, added nutrients, allergens, nutritional notes, contributors, modification dates .

When you choose a product, all the information and characteristics received from Internet users and verified by nutritionists are automatically displayed. You can then read the following data:

  • General description ;
  • Technical description ;
  • List of ingredients ;
  • Score assigned in relation to nutritional value or nutri-score;
  • List of links for comparable similar products;
  • Summary table evaluating a product compared to the market average.
Open Food Facts provides Internet users with useful information on products

For who ?

Open Food Facts was created for everyone without exception, but some people find it more interesting.

Conscious consumers

Internet users aware of the problems of the consumer market are particularly interested in the concept of Open Food Facts. With the information provided, they now know what they are eating and where the food on their plates comes from.

Environmental defenders

The fervent defenders of the environment will also be able to benefit from it because from now on, they can more easily sort products based on their origin and the method of food processing.

The parents

Parents who care about what they give their children will benefit from it. In fact, the database helps them to better choose foods suitable for their homes. They can in particular measure nutritional values ​​or allergenic dangers.

People who follow diets

Individuals who are picky about nutrition, those following a slimming program or a strict diet plan benefit the most from the nutritional information contained in the product descriptions.

Thus, athletes and people looking to lose weight are increasingly interested in the application. They can even better monitor their nutrition and optimize their lifestyle based on the nutritional values ​​and the menus that they prepare periodically.

In order to better vary their dishes, they prefer to be sure of the calorie intake of the food. They can then choose the supplements or nutrients that their bodies need.

The interest in knowing where our food comes from is common to everyone. The degree is just more and more intense, especially because of ecological and environmental problems as in the palm oil affair which made a lot of noise a few years ago. The information provided helps to avoid the consumption of products of unknown origin.

Open Food Facts related databases

As you read above, Open Food Facts is now linked to other related databases. The aim of the association is always to provide as much information as possible regarding the products offered on the market.

Open Beauty Facts

At the end of 2017, Open Food Facts grew thanks to this Open Beauty Facts. Its aim is to provide information on the composition of beauty products. Certain cosmetics contain allergenic agents that users are not necessarily aware of. The application will help them achieve their beauty in a healthy way.

Open Pet Food Facts

Sometimes pets die too soon. The reasons are often linked to their diet. Owners will now know the ingredients of the kibble or food they give to their pets or livestock.

Note that Open Beauty Facts and Open Food Facts are presented like the very first, in practically the same styles of interfaces and categorization.

Open Product Facts

With a view to becoming “the database of everything”, the association also provides information on all other products thanks to the participation of Internet users.

Open Food Facts
Open Food Facts plans to become “the database of everything”.

This related project is distributed in sub-part form, namely Open Crayons Facts for colored pencils, Open Miniature Food Facts for miniature food products and Open Facts which is being developed for different types of consumables.

The organization now plans to create more than 77,000 new databases, always in order to better inform consumers about what they buy.

Has the association evolved?

Over the last three years, the data on the site has multiplied. It reached 100,000 products in 2017 and now it will soon have 800,000. With the three new related projects, they hope to be able to offer even more information.

How do we use Open Food Facts?

Using a Smartphone, you can connect to the site and access the information you need.

You can also choose to install the application specially designed by the association on your phone. This way you can scan product barcodes with the camera to find information directly corresponding.

On the other hand, you can add information about other products so that Internet users can have access to it.

Some products may be displayed but have sections missing from their listings. You can then fill them out if you have the correct information. Software will add them after checking them and display them in a short time in addition to adding a note and a NOVA category that you will discover after a few lines.

How is the annotation done?

The nutri-scores are developed by research teams. Based on nutritional information and categories of products, they calculate the value according to the methods of the Professor Serge Hercberg, epidemiologist specializing in nutrition.

The nutri-score is now displayed on the label of food products.

Professor Carlos Monteiro, behind a NOVA classification which is a distribution of foods, gives for its part, an indication of their degree of transformation. It exists in the group, 4 categories divided according to the rate of transformation provided.

The product displayed on your device will have a NOVA mention:

  • NOVA 1 when the foods contained are minimally or unprocessed;
  • NOVA 2 corresponds to culinary ingredients;
  • NOVA 3 brings together products in which two or three ingredients have undergone transformation;
  • NOVA 4 brings together foods whose composition is generally made from more than 5 ingredients that have undergone complex industrial processing.

How to contribute?

To contribute to the association’s database, simply take a product that you do not find in the list and fill in the information concerning it.

To do this, you need First create an ID. On your computer, on the official Open page Food Facts, you will find on the left a tab for adding a product. For continue and publish, you will need to register on the site using your address email. You will need to add a photo of the merchandise and copy the barcode so that other Internet users can easily find it in the database of data.

You can also install the app directly on your phone and go through the same steps. This method is more favorable because it allows you to save time by allowing you to record a product using the integrated camera of your hardware.

Open Food Facts
The Open Food Facts database is powered by contributions from Internet users.

Open Food Facts, what is it really?

As the founder says, it is a database. The foods listed even show details of their compositions after a scan. Some producers do not want to display the real annotations of their products. These values ​​are now, whether they like it or not, taken notes and are exposed to the general public thanks to specialized calculations.

Not only do you have access to data but in addition you can add certain information if ever it missing.

If you are looking for a product and that you have a certain requirement, you will just need to touch two or three times your phone so that the application distributes the products according to your choice criteria.

What is the Open Food Facts database used for?

For some time, certain researchers and producers have been using the information provided by the association to create applications for diabetics or those with allergies, according to the founding engineer.

Indeed, the site can be reused for purposes concerned with the environment and the health of consumers. Subject to an open or ODBL license, anyone can access it. Foodvisor, Yuka and Date Limite, for example, have already used Open Food Facts.

This amounts to saying that the information collected is open but above all useful to consumers and to different entities and organizations in the manner of Wikipedia or even Google.

Thanks to Open Food Facts, you now have the answers to the questions you asked yourself when you picked up a food product at the supermarket. Thanks to the contribution of several Internet users around the world, you can better choose the foods for your home. If you cannot find the product even though you have the information concerning it, contribute by filling in the association’s database.