Australian-invented ‘FoodSwitch’ smartphone app to provide Traffic Light rating for foods

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 18th January 2012

One of Australia’s leading public health research bodies, The George Institute, has launched a new smartphone app which gives a Traffic Light rating based on the amount of total fat, saturated fat, sugars and sodium per 100 grams – green for ‘low’, amber for ‘medium’ and red for ‘high’.

The new app, called ‘FoodSwitch’, is able to rate 20,000 packaged food products found in Australian supermarkets. The initiative is part of a new partnership with Bupa, one of Australia’s leading healthcare organisations.

The app is underpinned by more than three years of research by pre-eminent food and health policy experts from The George Institute.

By scanning the barcode of Australian packaged foods using an iPhone camera, shoppers will receive immediate, nutritional advice via the FoodSwitch app.

The George Institute’s Senior Director Professor Bruce Neal said, “Australians can now scan barcodes, see what’s in a food, and switch to a healthier choice in an instant.

“Choosing a healthier diet has to be made easier, because good eating habits are one of the best and most cost-effective ways to prevent disease. For too long, Australians have grappled with confusing food labels. And with FoodSwitch there is no reason why this should continue”, Professor Neal said.
The George Institute’s smartphone app has been launched despite the Australian Government recently rejecting the Traffic Light Labelling scheme for front-of-pack nutrition labelling in Australia. This rejection overruled the recommendations favouring Traffic Light Labelling that was made the Blewett Labelling Review report to the government.

Australian Food News had reported previously that an anti-Obesity Coalition had launched another smartphone app, also based on a Traffic Light Labelling system.

However, the ‘FoodSwitch’ smartphone app appears to create new opportunities for food marketers who have been concerned about the restrictions under the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code on making ‘healthy claims’ for foods.

The new system may be contentious because of its over-simplicity.