Obesity is one of the most important health challenges of the last decades at a global level, especially affecting children; since 2013, it is considered a disease. According to the World Health Organization, “globally, in 2013 the number of overweight children under the age of five, is estimated to be over 42 million. Close to 31 million of these are living in developing countries“. Obesity is caused by the lack of proper energy balance and are various and include an inactive lifestyle, environment, genes and family history, health conditions / medicines and other factors – you can consult the article by NIH’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute for more info on the factors). Among various foods, sugar and sugary drinks have been accused of significantly contributing to obesity.
In this context, well-known chef Jamie Oliver has started a campaign called Jamie’s Sugar Rush against the role sugar is playing in rising global health problems. What he does is really simple (but still really effective): First, he raises awareness about the issue on a special part of his website using eye-catching images, informative videos, focused FAQs and guidelines/tips as well as his 5-point manifesto (PDF). Then, after people are well-informed, he asks them to take action by signing a petition to the UK Government and Parliament, suggesting the introduction of a tax on sugary drinks in the UK to improve children’s health. The aim is to channel this tax amount in appropriate organizations, such as the Children’s Health Fund. Simple and effective approach, don’t you think?
This highlights the need for availability of the nutritional data on food packaging in an easy to understand way. Based on this data, consumers will be better informed on what they are actually eating. Such data already exist in various databases, such as the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, the Australian Food, Supplement and Nutrient Database and the SELF Nutrition Data portal; however, in all cases they are hard to be used by consumers and casual users.
And this brings us to what we are doing in Agro-Know: trying to serve different types of end users, like consumers, by providing them with data-powered and easy to use solutions that make their lives better (and more well-informed!). We like to transform openly available data into useful information that can be easily understood and used by end users. Our Foodakai app is an example of our approach, as it aims to “help consumers easily discover information on food safety issues in their own language from their local and regional authorities, and combine it with relevant information from international sources“, among others. A new app, shifting its focus to the nutritional value of specific foods and ingredients and highlighting risks such as the increased sugar consumption based on data available from various online data sources, could be substantially useful for consumers 🙂
Our suggestion? At least for the time being, look for natural sugar alternatives such as stevia and get more information on what you are actually eating!