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Big Food Data: A Massive Crowdsourced Database of Labels


Nutrition and big data are two trendy topics we're bound to hear more and more about as 2013 unfolds. And Food Essentials, a Missouri-based company building a food label database, is tackling the intersection of the two.
Food Essentials is scanning and collecting the muddled wealth of information on the labels on food products—that means fat and sugar content, number of calories, and also ingredients, allergens and vitamins. They're doing this by crowdsourcing photographs of hundreds of labels in grocery stores around the country.
The result is a database of information larger than any currently existing, organized into an API (application programming interface) that can be accessed by developers and used to build mobile apps that help empower consumers to make healthy—or at the least, informed—choices about their food products.
Food Essentials also helps organize and categorize the information, assigning labels like “low sodium” to products relative to the type of food. In other words, a certain brand of cashew may be low in sodium compared to the other packaged nuts in its category, but would not be considered a low sodium food when compared to frozen vegetables.
According to the CEO, Anton Xavier, “Our mission is to make vast amounts of food label data accessible to brands, developers as well as government entities, while keeping it simple to analyze.”
Have at it developers. I’d use an app for that.

This month, we're challenging the GOOD community to host a dinner party and cook a meal that contains fewer ingredients than the number of people on the guest list. Throughout March, we'll share ideas and resources for being more conscious about our food and food systems. Join the conversation at good.is/food and on Twitter at #chewonit.



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