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Methodology

We have created EWG Food Scores to help consumers make healthier, greener food choices. It encompasses more than 80,000 foods, 5,000 ingredients and 1,500 brands and has taken more than three years to build.

Products are rated based on three elements:

  • Nutrition. The nutrition scoring algorithm considers multiple factors, including calories, saturated fat, trans fat, sugar, sodium, protein, fiber and fruit, vegetable and nut content.
  • Ingredient concerns. The ingredient concerns algorithm focuses on such factors as the likely presence of key contaminants, pesticides, hormones and antibiotics and health implications of certain food additives.
  • Processing. The processing score reflects EWG's best estimate of the extent to which a particular food has been processed. Scoring factors include modification of individual ingredients from whole foods, number of artificial ingredients and other factors.

We combine these three scores into a single overall product score. We weight nutrition generally most heavily, ingredient concerns next and processing relatively lightly. We rate all foods on a 1 to 10 scale, with the best foods scoring 1 and the worst foods scoring 10.

Raw product label information is provided by LabelINSIGHT®.

To see Frequently Asked Questions, click here.

To see references for EWG's Food Scores please refer to the individual methodology sections below.

Nutrition

We all want to eat healthy. But figuring out which granola bar is best is tricky when you're in a store comparing labels. EWG's nutrition score is designed to help you answer your questions and make healthier food choices.

Our nutrition scoring algorithm is a modified version of a nutrition profiling system developed by Oxford University and the United Kingdom's Food Standards Agency, the UK counterpart of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Its merit has been confirmed by peer-reviewed publications and industry researchers.

EWG's algorithm differentiates between healthful and less healthful foods by considering calories, saturated fat, trans fat, sugar, sodium, protein, fiber, fruit, vegetable and nut content and other factors.

We have weighted nutrition most heavily and established it as the major driving factor in a product's overall score. To read the full nutrition methodology, click here.

Ingredient Concerns

If you truly want to eat healthy, you have to look beyond the nutrition facts panel on a product's label. That label will never say "likely contaminated with mercury" or "contains a food additive of higher concern."

EWG's ingredient concern score is designed to identify potential concerns for personal, public and environmental health. We consider factors such as the likely presence of key contaminants, pesticides, hormones and antibiotics and possible health implications of food additives.

Of the three scoring components, we have given the second most weight to the ingredient concerns score. To read the full ingredient concerns methodology, click here.

Processing

Whole foods are almost always the healthiest choices. Yet our busy lives mean that most of us sometimes turn to processed foods. We wanted to help consumers find less processed versions of their favorite foods. This turned out to be a challenging task.

EWG's processing score reflects our best estimate of the extent to which a particular food product has been processed. Scoring factors include the degree to which individual ingredients have been modified from whole foods and the number of artificial ingredients in a product.

In scoring a food, we give the processing score the least weight. It contributes less than other factors to a product's overall score. To read the full degree of processing methodology, click here.

Overall Product Score

EWG's Food Scores assigns foods an overall score between 1 (best) and 10 (worst). The overall score is calculated by adding the individual nutrition, ingredient concern and processing scores. In the combined score, the ingredient concern and processing scores carry less weight, reflecting the greater relative importance of the nutritional quality of food. An additional 0.5 is added for foods that are not certified organic (or 0.2 for foods certified to be made with 70 percent organic ingredients). Scores are rounded to provide greater differentiation between the best scoring products and less differentiation between the worst scoring products. Read the full overall score methodology here.

 

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EWG reserves the right to make public any information provided to it by companies. I understand that EWG does not accept any confidential or trade secret information that EWG does not have permission to share publicly. If I am contacting EWG on behalf of a company, by clicking "submit," I affirm that I have the authority to contact EWG on my company's behalf and to provide EWG permission to publicly disseminate all information provided.

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