App checks what's healthy in SA stores - TechCentral

App checks what’s healthy in SA stores

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An app, launched in South Africa on Thursday, allows consumers to scan barcodes on packaged food items to get detailed information about the nutritional content.

First launched in Australia, the app, called HealthyFood Switch, and which is available for download in the Google and Apple South African app stores (Android version or iOS version), is being brought to the local market as a partnership between the George Institute for Global Health and Discovery Vitality.

When used to scan the barcode on an item of food in a supermarket, or elsewhere for that matter, consumers will get nutritional information on the energy, total fat, saturated fat, sugar, fibre, sodium and calcium of the product, Discovery said.

“The algorithm that governs the app displays nutrient composition either by a star rating system (half a star to five stars) or by traffic light labelling (red, amber or green),” the company said.

“The user is also shown healthier alternatives within the same food category, allowing them to make a switch to a healthier product before they head to the check-out counter.”

Vitality Wellness head Dr Craig Nossel said in a statement that nutritional labelling information is often confusing to consumers. “FoodSwitch makes the whole thing easy because it allows people to interpret the information at a glance and make quick swaps while they’re shopping.”

The app, which has been launched in Australia, New Zealand and the UK, has been downloaded more than 600 000 times. There are plans to release it in another 30 countries, many of them low- to middle-income countries, said Dr Elizabeth Dunford of the George Institute.

Consumers can add items to the database by taking pictures of the relevant information on food items and sending this on to the app developers. More than 75 000 items are listed in the database.

“The data provided by the app will provide interesting insight to support the setting of food policy, including South Africa’s recent aim to reduce the whopping quantities of salt in many food items, said Discovery in the statement.  — © 2015 NewsCentral Media

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