How Apps like YUKA can impact one’s Regulatory Strategies

Dec 18, 20190 comments

How Apps like YUKA can impact one’s Regulatory Strategies

By Celia Campos, M.A., C&U-Assessors, Spain

Perhaps you are aware of the new product analysis, Apps, which is available through Google Play or an Apple Store (Fooducate, MyHealthWatcher, QuePuedoComer, etc.); however, a current trend on social & mass media is, YUKA. Yes, the orange carrot App leads this category and much thanks to a well-designed 360° marketing campaign.

But, why are so many enthralled with YUKA? Beyond marketing, it is a complete and easy to use tool, as in the food sector as for the cosmetic industry.

How does YUKA work? The App rates every product with an average score based on internal standards. This internal algorithm takes 3 points:(1)

  • Nutriscore: 60% of score weight
  • Presence of additives: 30% of score weight
  • Organic origin: 10% of score weight

Can we measure benefits for cosmetic in the same way done for food? Let’s remember that Nutriscore is a food scoring system, aka: 5 color nutrition label (5-CLN). That labeling system converts the nutritional value of products into a simple code, which consists of 5 letters, each with its own color. Each product is awarded a score based on a scientific algorithm. The formula in question takes into account nutrients:

  • to avoid consuming: sugar, saturated fats & salt values
  • to encourage to consume: bran, protein, fruit, vegetable & nut values(2).

Some European health authorities in France, Germany, Spain and the Benelux nations have adopted the system to better inform consumers about the healthiness of processed foods. Yet, Nutriscore cannot be applied to cosmetics or even food supplements. So for cosmetics, YUKA would lose 60% of the weight of score, so a replacement is needed.

According to the YUKA website, cosmetics are evaluated according to potential toxin of every ingredient present in the labeling (INCI list).In the YUKA website, “risk” of the substances is mentioned; however, is hard to believe that they are really taking into account risks. Exposure data nor the concentration of each substance cannot be inferred from the labeling. With respect to toxicology, potential hazard vs. risk is always in question, and the Paracelsus quote bears that out, “All is poison, nothing is poison, it depends on the dose”. However, YUKA developers have decided to dismiss the relevance of exposure in their score.

The potential “hazard” of every ingredient is obtained from reliable sources and try to reflect the state of the art. However, the bibliographical searches are quite partial. For example, in the case of Phenoxyethanol from the Spanish version of the App, only one source is mentioned for this widely reviewed ingredient, which dismisses SCCS or CIR reports. This way, the App shows a strong bias in sources selection, especially when talking about preservatives, UV filters, and other ingredients, known for being safe (in many cases extensively reviewed by expert panels).


As previously mentioned, the classification is made by the sole presence of the ingredient, without caring about the exposure rate (concentration in the formulation, quantity or frequency use of product used, place of body application, target population, etc.)

Mainly, due to the lack of rigor in the bibliographical sources and the use of ‘hazard’ instead of ‘risk’ for the evaluation, the App seems to appeal to ‘chemophobic’ positions.

The idea of having an App, which helps consumers in comparing products and making informed decisions is well viewed. In the midst of this YUKA ‘fever’, several companies are reformulating some of their references to make it 100% rate in YUKA.

After using it for several times, a couple of improvements can be recommended:

  • Pay more attention to the official positions and scientific expert criteria. And abandon ‘Chemophobia’, because the organic component is already considered in the final score.
  • Include exposure elements in order to have better approach to risk instead of hazard, for example asking questions about the expected use of the product.

Without these changes, the App would not truly be effective or fair to compare products and make informed decisions.



  1. YUKA. s.l. : – Accessed 11Dic2019.
  2. Nutriscore. s.l. : – Accessed 11Dic2019.