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Saturday 20 September 2014

FoodSwitch app offers healthier options

Matt Warman

Published 13/08/2014 | 12:03

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Shoppers could be offered a healthier alternative to every item in their shopping basket via a new app.

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The FoodSwitch app, developed by a charity to encourage users to cut down on their salt intake, was one of three winners of a new competition run by Public Health England.

The team behind it now hope to expand the 100,000 entries in its existing database to cover every major supermarket and to offer more comprehensive health information.

The idea is based on an Australian app developed by The George Institute for Global Health, which worked with the British Heart Foundation, the Medical Research Council and researchers from the University of Oxford to develop it for the UK.

The current, free, smartphone app relies on users scanning barcodes in supermarkets, and displays red, green and amber warnings for levels of fat, sugar, saturates and salt. It then display similar but healthier alternatives for each product.

It is hoped that future versions of the app will be able to limit the options displayed to particular supermarkets, or plug in digitally to online shopping baskets to make choices healthier before they are ordered.

Mr Selbiee said PHE would work intensely with FoodSwitch, which has already had more than 10,000 downloads, to further improve the product.

The UK app was initially made by the charity Consensus Action on Salt and Health, whose campaigning since 2003 has led to a 15 per cent reduction in average UK salt intake. The recent focus on high levels of sugar in food, combined with new plans for improved food labelling, mean however that it is now possible to compare foods directly.

The charity also said that manufacturers have modified their products because they do not want to be given red warning flags on food labels.

The app was one of three winners of Public Health England’s HealthX competition, which was supported by The Daily Telegraph and includes a £15,000 prize, as well as marketing, mentoring, design and networking support. Other winners included an app to encourage families to walk, called Fee Fi Fo Fit, and a personalized exercise and diet planner called Youniverse.

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