The new food classification for better health
Not a week goes by without warning us about the consumption of ultra-processed products, which are increasingly implicated in the development of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, obesity and cancer.
Raising consumer awareness and promoting healthy eating is a good idea, but the right products must be available. Aris Christodoulou, founder of Siga three years ago, therefore wishes to encourage manufacturers and distributors to modify their offer, based on a scientific approach to improve and promote food quality.
"We want to become a benchmark on quality," he explains constructively. "The aim is not to add to this from an anxiety-provoking point of view, by condemning the players in the agri-food sector. On the contrary, we must work with these manufacturers and distributors, because it is there, together, that we can change the offer. »
One could imagine that the existing rankings already play the role of guides among the foods offered on the shelves of our supermarkets, but they limit their analysis to nutritional tables or only partially include the notion of processing, and without any real scientific approach. The food is therefore reduced to a sum of nutrients: proteins, fatty acids, sugars, vitamins and minerals.
Inspired by a classification identified in Brazil, Aris Christodoulou set up a committee of recognized experts and created a new index, the Siga score, to evaluate the ingredients and the level of processing of a product. Siga identifies the amount and type of processing that foods undergo between the production of raw material and the time they are consumed. However, we now know that the physical structure of food plays an important role. And it is the destruction of this structure that has a negative impact on health. This concept is already recognized by scientists.
To date, Siga has identified 50,000 products, divided into three main categories:
- not or only slightly processed - fruits, fish, eggs ;
- processed, i.e. mixed with culinary ingredients - bread, soup, cheese;
- ultra-processed, in which additives or flavour enhancers appear - caramel rice cake and caramel rice pudding in the example below. Regular consumption of these products is dangerous.
Introduced in spring 2017, the approach attracted franprix, which decided to use it internally: after evaluating tens of thousands of articles and comparing financial information, Siga revealed that the company could improve its quality policy by changing a large part of its offer, without taking any risk on its turnover. Since then, Siga has met with more than 300 manufacturers, distributors and collective restaurateurs for product evaluations and reformulations. Siga already has about fifteen customers and discussions are in progress with supermarkets, specialized distributors and collective restaurateurs.
At the end of the chain, there is obviously the consumer, to whom Siga also wants to provide better information. The Siga score is already available in several applications, including Scan Up (iOS and Android).