One of our last guest posts before things kick off on Monday is brought to you by Stéphane Gigandet, founder of Open Food Facts. They’ve been working with the bar at the OKCon conference site, CICG, to open up the data on the drinks we’ll be getting next week!
Opening Drinks at OKCon 2013
I hope I grabbed your attention with the idea of free drinks to welcome you in Geneva next week, but this being about OKCon, I’m talking about a different kind of opening: opening the data of drinks available in the CICG restaurant where you will have lunch during the conference.
The OKCon organizers put us in touch with Fabienne Pizzera from the CICG restaurant and thanks to her we added all the drinks to the Open Food Facts database so that you can choose your fruit juices or sodas based on hard data next week.
Of course you could just stay on the safe side and pick a drink you already know. Surely they have Coke in Switzerland too, and Coke is the same everywhere around the world right? Well yes, they do have Coke in Geneva (although they call it Coca-Cola), but it’s not exactly the same as in the US. In 2011 the State of California added a component of sulfite ammonia caramel (E150d) on its list of chemicals believed to cause cancer, and now Coke contains a different coloring in the US. But in Europe we still have sulfite ammonia caramel in Coke and most colas.
This is the kind of information you can get when you scan a product barcode with the Open Food Facts iPhone or Android app. Nobody knows all the 2000 “E-numbers” like E150d that producers put on ingredient lists. In fact very few people know the meaning of even just one of them. Open Food Facts can decrypt those codes for you and tell you if a product is likely to contain ingredients that you may which to avoid like palm oil.
We can also present the data in easier to understand ways. You may have heard about the “traffic light labelling” for nutrition facts. In the UK, product labels show the amount of sugar, fat and salt with a color code: red, orange or green. Although studies have shown this kind of labelling is efficient to fight obesity, it was heavily lobbied against by the food industry and rejected by the EU parliament in 2011. Of course we can just wait for the industry to “self-regulate” itself, or for lawmakers to revise their opinion. But since we have the data, it took only a few lines of code to at least show traffic lights on Open Food Facts.
Maybe you pay attention to the amount of sugar you consume, or prefer products which contain few additives? Now that we have the product data in a database, you can easily compare products and generate graphs like the one below with a few clicks on Open Food Facts.
You will notice we still have some French on this graph. We are in the process of internationalizing the project and we need your help! Not only to translate the interface, but to add products (most of our 12000 products have been contributed from French-speaking countries so far), to create local communities, to imagine new uses and re-uses for the data, and to build new features.
Most products in Switzerland have labels written in German, French and/or Italian. At least you know the alphabet and you can probably guess what most of the ingredients are. But what if OKCon is held in Tokyo, Seoul or Athens next year? It might be all Greek to you! Well we have a project to help with that: if we have a global food products database, it should not be too hard to make an app that can automatically translate ingredients from any language to any other language. If you would like to work on that, or on anything else related to Open Food Facts, please do talk to me during OKCon next week (I’ll wear an Open Food Facts tshirt) or e-mail us!
Stéphane Gigandet is the founder of Open Food Facts, a collaborative, free and open database of food products from around the world. He develops several projects related to food, nutrition and/or open data such as Recettes de Cuisine, Informations Nutritionnelles and Accord Met & Vin.