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Nutrition, barcode-scanning app rates packaged food for South Africans

In partnership with George Institute for Global Health and Discovery Vitality, nutrition app called HealthyFood Switch has just launched in South Africa.

The mobile app lets you scan the barcode of a packaged-food item and provides nutritional information on the energy, total fat, saturated fat, sugar, fibre, sodium and calcium of the product.

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An algorithm rates the nutrient composition using a star rating system. 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.

Discovery Insurance isn’t shying away from hooking onto the latest tech trends. A few months ago the South African insurance company partnered with forward-thinking taxi service Uber for on-demand flew shots. That was before it released an app last year to encourage better drivers and improve road safety across the country.

Head of Vitality Wellness Dr Craig Nossel explains that it’s important to empower people to make healthier nutrition choices:

Nutritional labelling information is often confusing to consumers, but 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 was developed from an existing food database of approximately 17 000 packaged foods and shortly after its release in Australia in 2012, FoodSwitch made its way to consumers in New Zealand and the UK.

Read more: Mobile users obsessed with health and fitness, companies not so hot on Dropbox [Report]

Customers have been encouraged to take pictures of non-listed product labels and send it to HealthyFood Switch developers. Boasting a growth of 600 000 users within 18 months, it carries a database of over 75 000 products.

Within a short 18 months of initial launch some 600 000+ users had downloaded the app onto their phones. Consumers have been encouraged to contribute to the growth of the database by taking pictures of the relevant information on food items and sending this on to the developers, leading to a rapid expansion of the database to over 75 000 products.

Dr Elizabeth Dunford from the George Institute says that South Africa is the fourth country to have access to FoodSwitch. It plans to roll out to 30 other countries in the near future.

Download the HealthyFood Switch app from the App Store on your iPhone or, if you are an Android smartphone user, from the Google Play Store.

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