We want to welcome Marion Korach-André as FoodFacts' first member of our new Scientific Advisory Board. Marion is currently working as a Research Coordinator at KTH/SciLifeLab and is a project leader on sustainable nutrition and health at the think tank gaea21. She is joining FoodFacts to work on specific projects where her expertise is needed. We sat down to hear more about her background and passion for nutrition and discussed how to help consumers to make better choices.
But first - why a Scientific Advisory Board? At FoodFacts, we use the latest science, international standards, and academic research to build intelligent food data, combining industry food data from producers with our proprietary algorithms to index and enrich data. The Scientific Advisory Board will help review the quality and relevance of the scientific research used in FoodFacts platform. These can be for example in defining our list of 100+ allergens, comparing international health standards, and defining the CO2 estimate hypothesis.
Hi Marion! Tell us a bit about yourself, what are you currently working with and how did you get in contact with FoodFacts?
Growing up in the French Alps, outdoor activities and nutrition have been a driving force for me since I was young. I’ve studied human nutrition in health and have a Ph.D. in “human nutrition at rest and during exercise”. After living in the US for some time, I started a research position at Karolinska Institutet and later worked there as both assistant professor and group leader. After this, I joined KTH/SciLifeLab as a Research Coordinator and am now also a project leader at gaea21 where I’m leading different scientific teams. Gaea21 aims to classify every single type of food's impact on the environment and health, from production to consumption. With our work, we want to help the consumer to decide what kind of food to eat with both those aspects in mind. Our research also serves as advice to governmental organizations to change the way we eat by giving them relevant data for decision-making.
FoodFacts’ CEO Alexandra Ferreira reached out to me a while ago to present a project and later I got asked to join as a scientific advisor. I think that FoodFacts and the work of gaea21 go well together. At gaea21 I do the research and at FoodFacts I can apply what I find.
Why are you excited to be at FoodFacts?
I’m excited because I have worked in nutrition research for over 20 years and I didn’t realize until recently that our research was not useful for the public, the same goes for the food industry. The food industry is very powerful and uses our research results to improve its image but not its products. I am quite upset about this. By joining FoodFacts I hope to contribute to informing the public about food products and how their choice will affect (or improve) their health and the health of the planet.
How do you think food data can enable better food choices and bridge the gap between research and consumers’ shopping behaviors?
It is a long process and hard work. However, in our new digital world, data is a way to provide accurate information and personalized advice to consumers according to their backgrounds and personal habits. With this in mind, food data will provide valuable information that will enable better food choices.
I think it can be powerful to have some fun, easy-to-read information ready in the store. The first step should be to provide more general information that is simplified and digestible. Today that information mainly comes from the food industry. As a scientist, I wish I had the capacity and knowledge on how to communicate my findings to the public. In our field, we barely have enough money for science and not enough resources to be able to share our research. That’s one of the main reasons why I joined FoodFacts, it’s a channel to provide some really important information to consumers.
How will you be involved in FoodFacts as a scientific advisor?
For example, I’m advising around what right type of information to present to the end-user, that can be valuable and useful. It could be to improve scoring systems to make sure they are well-balanced and take into account the right data points when grading products. I’ve advised on how to use Nutri-Score, and how much it should be weighted compared to the NOVA score in certain calculations for better accuracy. But I’m also advising on how this information can be communicated to the user to be more actionable. It’s a lot of brainstorming together to understand how to communicate it to the consumer. Here the combination of me as a scientist with my knowledge of the latest in science around nutrition and FoodFacts with the platform can close the gap between research and the consumer.
Do you have any advice you would like to share with readers?
If there is one recommendation that I’d like to share with everyone, it would be to reduce highly processed food products in our diet. The main message we should provide to the consumer is to go back to more unprocessed, or very little processed food. That can make a huge difference for our health and the food system at large.
Do you want to learn more about food labels and how they can be used to drive better consumption?