Recently, I downloaded the free FoodSwitch app (application) to my smartphone.
Originally developed in Australia, and just made available in the US, this app provides easy-to-understand nutritional data about a packaged food item by merely scanning its barcode label with your smartphone’s camera.
Imagine you’re shopping at your local supermarket, you stop and examine one of many packaged foods and try to determine which is healthiest to eat.
With so many choices, we try our best to choose nutritious food items to put in our shopping basket.
The FoodSwitch app can help us with this choice, by providing detailed information about a food’s content, and suggest healthier alternatives.
Nutritionist personnel and others at The George Institute for Global Health in Sydney, Australia maintain a continuously-updated logistical database of currently-available barcoded packaged foods.
This database is maintained in the US by Chicago-based Label Insight, a company which assists stores informing their customers about what’s inside the food they eat, along with information about other products.
Currently, there are 268,000 barcoded food products maintained in the database. This number continues to grow as new and updated barcoded products are added.
When you’re in a grocery store and want to learn about a food item’s content, just activate the FoodSwitch app, touch the apps’ “scan” button, and focus the camera towards the package’s barcode.
If the barcode is registered in the database, information will be shown about the food item.
You can choose to view product information using Health Star Ratings or Traffic Light Labels.
The color-coded Traffic Light Rating (TLR) will indicate if the food contains a high (red light), medium (amber light), or low (green light) amount of calories, salt, sugar, saturated fat, and total fat content.
The Health Star Rating (HSR) scoring program evaluates the food’s individual components and applies a visual star rating; the lower the star rating, the less healthy of a food choice; a higher star rating indicates a healthier food choice.
Yes, folks, it’s all about choices.
If a scanned food item shows a low star rating, other like-food products with higher star ratings will be presented for your consideration.
Other food nutrients, including energy, protein, dietary fiber, and calcium; and fruit, vegetables, nuts, and legumes contents are also evaluated by both HSR and TLR.
Many of us are concerned about our salt intake; some food items only show its sodium content on the packaging.
Salt is made up of sodium and chloride, and the FoodSwitch app will formulate a product’s salt content based on its sodium value using a multiplication formula.
Hundreds of thousands of food products stocked sit on grocery store shelves all across the country; not all of them are in the database.
I came come across one food product’s barcode which was not found in the FoodSwitch database.
The app asked if I could help them out by sending them a photo of the barcode, product front of package, nutrition panel, and ingredients.
FoodSwitch said it would forward my photos to their validation team, who will run it through quality control checks before adding the information into the logistical food database.
You can help others by adding missing product information into their database.
This reminded me of being asked by my Google app to comment on a recent store visit or specific photo I contributed to a restaurant or retailer I was visiting.
The FoodSwitch app is a continuous work-in-progress, and a user of the app will receive an alert whenever an update to the app becomes available.
The app includes an easy-to-follow tutorial, and resource links.
The FoodSwitch app has no commercial relationship with any food manufacturer; its information is independently obtained.
Alternate products offered via the app are not influenced by food-makers; they are based solely on their healthiness.
The FoodSwitch app tracks your product scans and allows you to compare up to 10 similar items at a time.
During the early-1970s, George Lauer of IBM developed the barcode label and scanning system.
A Minnesota connection: Dec. 1, 1972; The Super Market Committee met in Rochester and was shown Lauer’s barcode scanning system for use in supermarkets nationwide. It was accepted and approved by the committee for use.
IBM began manufacturing barcode scanners in Rochester.
The morning of June 26, 1974, the first supermarket Universal Product Code (UPC) barcode was publicly scanned in a Troy, OH grocery store checkout.
The UPC barcode was on a 10-pack package of Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit gum.
The FoodSwitch app download is available for both iPhone (via their App Store), and Android (via Google Play) smartphones.
Note the iPhone requires iOS 7.1 or later, and an Android device needs version 4.3 or newer.
Smartphones require a camera with auto-focus which most new models have.
As of this writing, the FoodSwitch app is available for downloading in eight countries.
FoodSwitch USA website is https://bit.ly/2JcADFV.
Label Insight’s website is https://www.labelinsight.com.
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