CodeCheck challenge: showing how food choices affect climate change


Whether it’s microbeads, palm oil, hormonal active substances or too much sugar – with its free barcode scanner app, CodeCheck shows users detailed information about food and cosmetic products. So far it hasn’t been possible to give information on how emission-intensive a product might be and Turing Data Study Group researchers were challenged to design this new function. This would be added to the barcode scanner app as a new ratings feature, enabling consumers to make food choices based on carbon-footprint.


Vanessa Dilg, CodeCheck’s Head of Science and Scientific Product Innovation explains: “People today consume much more consciously and individually. They want to know if a product is ecological and healthy and if it might cause climate-damaging emissions. We want to be able to show them this information.”

Over the course of the Data Study Group, the team of researchers with expertise across mathematics, computer science and statistics, worked with CodeCheck’s dataset and developed an initial model that could be used to show specific carbon footprints for food products like pizza, cereals or juices.

Vanessa explains: “Together with the team, we found some approaches to estimate carbon footprints. A lot of information about the production chain is held by the manufacturer, so we struggled a bit with some missing data. But it was a good beginning because together we built a strong foundation for the CO2 function of CodeCheck’s app.”

Vanessa is optimistic about what data science can achieve: “We just need to find more and better data. Then we can expand the model and make more accurate comparisons.”

“I had an amazing experience here, really positive and productive. It was great to see the researchers in action"

Vanessa Dilg, Codecheck’s Head of Science and Scientific Product Innovation

Reflecting on the experience and the week’s main highlights, she says: “I had an amazing experience here, really positive and productive. It was great to see the researchers in action... I think these are important connections which enable new insights and opportunities for future collaboration between research and industry. I think there is a mutual benefit for us and for the researchers.”

Summing up she concludes: “In addition to the great facilitator and team-working, the coolest thing about this experience was watching the final presentation coming together incrementally. We had discussions about it before lunch and dinner each day, so I saw it all building up. It’s been an amazing experience and I was happy to be here.”

In terms of advice to anyone considering a collaboration with the Institute via Data Study Groups, Vanessa says: “In the beginning it takes a bit of work to organise the data and prepare, but it’s definitely worth the effort. It was an interesting week which gave us great ideas and new contacts. It’s also best to stay for the whole week.”