This app allows the user to search and compare nutritional information on New Zealand food products. By scanning the barcode of a food label, the user gets easy-to-interpret nutritional information that is presented using a colour-coded, traffic-light system of red, amber, and green. They receive immediate suggestions for ‘healthier’ alternative foods or products. The app has 3 main selections — Foodswitch, SaltSwitch and GlutenSwitch:
Foodswitch is handy for any shopper, as it compares products based on energy, fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt content.
SaltSwitch is useful for people on a salt-restricted diet, such as people with high blood pressure or kidney disease. The app tries to identify similar products with a healthier profile and less salt.
GlutenSwitch is for people looking for gluten free products. The app tries to identify similar products that are reported as gluten free.
If the product you are searching for is not found in the app database, the user is prompted to send through photos of the front package, nutritional panel and ingredients. For a more detailed description of the app, see Google Play or iTunes and for a detailed review, see Reviews.
✔ The colour code system makes it easy to identify healthy food choices. ✔ This app is produced by trustworthy organisations (partnership between the National Institute for Health Innovation at the University of Auckland, The George Institute for Global Health, and Bupa New Zealand).
✔ The information is NZ focused and based on NZ foods. There are currently 8000 foods in database.
✔ It uses a reputable Nutrient Profiling Scoring System from FSANZ to determine overall ‘healthiness’ of product.
✘ It does not include information and messages on portion sizes.
✘ The app is sometimes misleading. For example, a product with 4 red lights may get ‘healthier’ suggestion than another that also has 4 red lights.
✘ User fatigue – no further encouragement to choose ‘healthier’ products like motivational messages or a points system.
✘ When the GlutenSwitch option is selected, the warning 'contains gluten' is quite small, and can be easily missed.
✘ Since the app aims to be visual, it would be helpful if, when displaying the healthier choice option, apart from just listing it, the user has the option of seeing an image of the product. This could make it easier to find during shopping.
✘ As more people move towards online shopping, a handy function would be if this app was integrated into online shopping websites.
Date of review: June 2016 Platform reviewed: Android App version: 2.1 Download size: 19 MB
The following references relate to articles about apps for weight loss.
Reviewer: Dietitian App Review Working Group, Auckland DHB, July 2015. Review: "A useful and simple tool to assist with choosing healthier food options within a food type. However, users must be aware that the lack of consideration of portion size of pre-packaged products may lead to inappropriate food choices. At times, the 'healthier suggestions' remain poor food choices." Safety concerns: "None - no risks identified. The app uses a large, independent NZ packaged food database (i.e. partnership between the National Institute for Health Innovation (NIHI) NZ, George Institute for Global Health (Aus) and Bupa NZ." New Zealand relevance: "Highly relevant - targeted to a New Zealand audience. The information is NZ focused and based on NZ foods. There are currently more than 8000 foods in database."
Formal MARS Review
The formal app review is based on the Mobile App Rating Scale (MARS) developed by researchers at Queensland University of Technology, Australia.(1) It is designed to score apps on a few comprehensive dimensions — engagement, functionality, aesthetics, and information quality. Each dimension comprises several items which are rated on a 5-point scale from “1. Inadequate” to “5. Excellent”.
The tech review relates to the technical aspects of the app,such as security, privacy, etc.
Reviewer:Sara Jebreil, July 2016
The following links provide more detailed information on the technical aspects of apps.