The George Institute For Global Health
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FoodSwitch China

Project status: 
Active

FoodSwitch is a free smartphone application designed by The George Institute for Global Health to support healthier food choices and prevent diet-related ill health. Its goal is to empower individuals to make healthier food choices by providing access to information and innovative tools.

China’s rapid economic and social development means a dramatic increase in the consumption of packaged foods. Although there are policies and regulations about food nutrition labeling in China, current nutritional labels can be difficult for consumers to choose much healthier food products. FoodSwitch aims to provide a simplified approach and more help by using advanced mobile technology.

Imagine you’re at your local supermarket. The many brand choices of packaged food can be overwhelming, and these products often contain surprisingly high-levels of salt, sugar, saturated fat and kilojoules which may contribute to the risks of heart disease and stroke. How can you decide what to put in your basket and be sure you make the best choices and buy healthier food for you and your family?

Already available and popular in Australia, New Zealand, the United KingdomSouth Africa and India, this free app is now introduced by China Center for Mobile Innovation (CCmHI) to the China market. Collaborating with Chinese Center for Disease Control (China CDC), the app will not only help the Chinese customers make healthier food choices when grocery shopping, but is also expected to provide the basis for instituting policy measures to manage chronic diseases in China.

 

Download

Scan the following QR codes to download FoodSwitch:

iOS   Android
 

 

How FoodSwitch works

FoodSwitch works by using the phone camera to acquire the barcode on a packaged food. It can tell what’s in the packaged food you’re eating, whether it’s high in salt, fat, sugar and kilojoules.

 

Select

FoodSwitch comes with handy filters to suit different health needs.

Scan

Use the autofocus camera on a supported smartphone or tablet to scan a packaged food’s barcode to get easy-to-understand nutritional information.

The scanned item is then matched to a product in the app database and nutritional information is immediately displayed on-screen in a consumer friendly traffic-light-label format or as Health Star Rating (HSR) labels, so you can see at a glance how healthy the food item is. 

 

Switch

When you scan a food product you’ll also get a list of healthier choices you can switch to.

No matter which filter you’re using, healthier choices are first identified by comparing the overall nutritional value of foods based on the Health Star Rating score algorithm, taking into account a range of different factors important to general health including saturated fat, sugars, salt, energy, protein, dietary fibre, fruit, vegetables, nuts, and legumes (FVNL) content, and for some products, calcium. 

If you’re using the SaltSwitch or EnergySwitch filters, the healthier choices listed must also have a lower amount of the relevant nutrient (salt or kilojoules respectively) than the product you scanned.

 

Compare

Compare the nutritional information of two similar products by simply scanning the first product, clicking on the compare icon and scanning a second product.

Save, share, support

Add an item to a shopping list, share the information with others, or help us improve the app by reporting any potential issues. 

Save your healthy favourites on a shopping list ready to make the switch next time you shop, or share them with your friends via email.

 

Filters

FoodSwitch Classic

This filter is great for anyone looking to make overall healthier food choices. 

SaltSwitch

This filter is great for people with, or being treated for, high blood pressure. It’s also useful for people with heart disease and kidney disease because it only lists healthier choices that have a lower amount of salt than the scanned product. 

EnergySwitch

This filter can help people choose foods with lower energy (kilojoules) to help them manage their energy needs.

 

Viewing modes

Traffic Light Labelling mode

In ‘Traffic Light’ Labelling mode, you’ll see colour-coded ratings to let you know if a product is low (green), medium (amber) or high (red) for 3 key food components (total fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt).

Health Star Rating mode

In Health Star Rating (HSR) mode, you’ll get an idea of how healthy a product is by a star rating from 0.5 to 5 stars. The higher the star rating, the healthier the food is overall.

 

FAQs

Why did CCmHI conduct research on FoodSwitch and bring it to China?

FoodSwitch was designed by The George Institute for Global Health to support healthier food choices and prevent diet-related ill health. It is already available and popular in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.  The goal is to empower individuals to make healthier food choices by providing access to information and innovative tools.

Although there are policies and regulations about food labeling in China, current food labels can be difficult to understand and there is an urgent need for simplification. FoodSwitch is a key step toward helping consumers make healthier food choices – starting in the supermarket aisle!

How do I understand the results?

Each product you see in FoodSwitch has been rated for the level of total fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt. The ‘traffic light’ ratings tell you if a product is low (green), medium (amber) or high (red) in these food components.

Where does the nutritional information come from?

Wherever possible we use nutrient values reported by the manufacturer. If values are missing and we can make an estimate based on known values for other similar products we do that.

What if the product I scan isn’t in the database?

If you scan a product that isn’t in the database, you’ll be invited to help us by taking three photos – one of the front of the product, one of the nutrition label and one of the ingredients list. The app will then automatically send these pictures to us so the item can be validated and added to the database.

Please note that with users contributing many new products to the database every day, it can take some time for the product to appear in the FoodSwitch app.

How do I access the FoodSwitch app?

For iPhone/iPad1 users, you can download FoodSwitch from the App Store online on your device.

For Android2 users, you can download FoodSwitch from Baidu Mobile Assistant, Android Market or 91 Mobile Assistant online via your device.

The app is free of charge. An internet connection (3G/4G or Wi-Fi) is required to download the app and to share information by social media and email. Standard usage charges may apply – check with your internet and mobile service providers for more information.

Can I use the app outside China?

FoodSwitch is designed specifically for each country and is different in each country in which it is released.  This is because the bar codes on foods are specific to each country.  If you use the chinese version of FoodSwitch outside of China it will likely give incorrect results.  Currently, FoodSwitch is only available in versions for China, Australia, the UK and New Zealand.  The FoodSwitch team is currently exploring opportunities to launch the app in other countries.

What if I have more questions about FoodSwitch?

See the Full FoodSwitch FAQs for more answers and to contact us by email.