New FoodSwitch App Helps Consumers Make Healthier Food Choices

Monday, February 17, 2014 - 15:15

FoodSwitch, a free app for smartphones, was launched last week. The app help shoppers make better food choices by allowing users to scan barcodes of tens of thousands of food products and instantly see whether there are healthier alternatives available.

The app has been created by Consensus Action on Salt & Health (CASH), in collaboration the George Institute of Global Health, the Medical Research Council Human Nutrition Research, The British Heart Foundation Health Promotion Research Group, Nuffield Department of Population Health & Nuffield Department of Primary Care, University of Oxford.

FoodSwitch allows people to use their smartphone camera to scan the barcode of a product and get clear nutritional information on over 80,000 packaged food and drinks sold in supermarkets.

The app provides easy to understand 'traffic light' ratings on a range of different factors important to health, including fats, sugars, salt, protein and fibre. FoodSwitch also suggests similar, healthier products to help consumers who wish to reduce the levels of fat, salt and sugar in their families' diets.

The aim is to help customers make more informed decisions when doing their weekly shop, in turn reducing their risk of ill health through poor diets.

Dr Peter Scarborough works in the British Heart Foundation Health Promotion Research Group at Oxford University, which has long been interested in nutrient profiling and the promotion of public health. He says: 'With all the messages about health in the public eye, it is hard for consumers to know what is "healthy". The established nutrition criteria used in the app shows customers products that are healthier overall, not just whether they are higher in salt, fat or sugar.'

Professor Susan Jebb of Oxford University's Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences says: 'A poor diet is responsible for tens of thousands of premature deaths every year in the UK. People will be able to use this smartphone technology to swap the foods in their regular shopping basket for healthier options to help themselves and their families to cut their risk of diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.'

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