Helping healthy choices

It's often difficult to tell which packaged food is the healthiest.

Traffic-light indications - green for a healthy choice, amber for less healthy and red for a choice that is not healthy - on food labels has been discussed for several years but opposed by the food industry.

Now Foodswitch, an iPhone and Android smartphone app, enables you to do it yourself in the supermarket.

You scan the barcode of an item through the camera and it gives you an easy-to-understand, traffic-light guide to the total fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt in the product as well as alternative, healthier choices of similar products.

I tried it out in the supermarket recently and found it worked well, although not every item I scanned was on its database.

The app invites you to help by taking photos of the front of the label, the nutrition table and the ingredients list which it automatically sends back to the researchers who can update the database.

Developed by the National Institute for Health Innovation at Auckland University, along with the George Institute and Burpa, Foodswitch can be downloaded for free from www.foodswitch.co.nz or online app stores.

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