Fooducate is an app for the iPhone and Android that allows consumers to get easy-to-understand information about the quality of a product by scanning the bar code with their smart phone. A first-place winner of the U.S. Surgeon General’s Healthy Apps Challenge, Fooducate was developed by dieticians and parents to help consumers see through some of the “tricks” product manufacturers use to conceal unhealthy ingredients, including artificial food colorings (which are controversial among nutritionists and scientists), high-fructose corn syrup, trans fats (which can legally “hide” in foods in small amounts), and various additives.
From the Fooducate blog:
Fooducate’s philosophy is relatively simple, but the actual algorithmic implementation is quite complex. Fooducate grading [is such that] minimally processed, real foods with intrinsic nutrients will score better than processed foods that are poor in built-in nutrients. Fooducate’s analysis is based on information that appears on a product’s package. This includes the nutrition facts panel and the ingredient list. Fooducate does not receive any additional input from manufacturers. The lowest grade in the system is a D, and the highest grade is an A. Products are graded based on their nutrients, ingredients, category, and processing.
For more information, check out the video below:
The app developers hope that having access to a simple food “grade” will help consumers make healthy choices without having to go through the process of learning about complex nutrition topics or keeping up with the latest research. When users scan a bar code corresponding to a food with a low grade, the app automatically suggests healthier alternatives. Currently, there is no algorithm that allows the app to gather information about the specific store or location at which the consumer is shopping (meaning that some of the suggested alternatives may not be available), but developers hope that over time, they’ll be able to add degrees of sophistication to Fooducate.