Foods high in sugar, fat exposed in supermarket aisle

Award-winning ‘FoodSwitch’ app adds new user-requested features and Health Star Rating.

Products high in sugar and saturated fat are being uncovered by Australian consumers and switched for healthier choices in the supermarket aisle, thanks to today’s release of additional features of the internationally acclaimed FoodSwitch app.

The free health app, developed by The George Institute for Global Health and Bupa Australia, makes it even easier for shoppers to switch to healthier options among packaged foods, with three new features:

  • SugarSwitch: Lists products with less total sugar than the scanned item
  • EnergySwitch: Suggests foods with lower kilojoules to help manage energy intake
  • FatSwitch: Lists products with a lower amount of saturated fat, helping tackle high cholesterol

Users can also choose to use the Health Star Rating label format, along with the ‘traffic light’ colour labelling system, to get easy-to-understand nutritional information about their favourite foods. Health Star Rating was endorsed by the Australian government in June 2014 and is already appearing on many major food companies’ products in supermarkets. The higher the star rating, the healthier the product.

Professor Bruce Neal of The George Institute and The University of Sydney said the new features of FoodSwitch give Australians more ways to make healthier food choices, and with added Health Star Rating labelling people can confidently make choices based on the industry standard.

“FoodSwitch places the power in the hands of the consumer.  What people buy at the checkout drives what the food industry provides. By showing Australians what’s in their food we can all push industry towards developing and marketing more nutritious products,” said Professor Neal.

“Poor diet is the leading cause of ill health in Australia, a precursor to the big killers like heart disease, stroke and diabetes,” added Professor Neal. “The introduction of the Health Star Rating system is a significant milestone in the fight against this problem and like FoodSwitch helps people to take control of their health.”

Alan Kirkland, CHOICE CEO, explains that Health Star Ratings are a great tool for consumers to make healthier food choices at glance.

“In absence of the Health Star Rating on many products yet, the FoodSwitch app allows you to easily compare the healthiness of packaged foods within any product category via a mobile device."

Dr Rob Grenfell, National Medical Director, Bupa Australia and New Zealand agreed the addition of the new features and the Health Star Rating viewing mode empowers even more Australians with the right information to make healthier choices.

“Nutrition is complex, and if we expect Australians to get the healthy balance right, we need to give them the tools and information to do so.

“FoodSwitch can help consumers make informed decisions about what they eat based on clear, easily accessible facts, and with more options to tailor choices to suit different health needs.”

The FoodSwitch app has been downloaded more than 500,000 times since its 2012 launch. The database that powers the app has grown almost five-fold in that time, in part thanks to the enthusiastic response from users who have sent in more than 400,000 photos of items not previously in the database.

The updated iOS app can be downloaded from the App Store. Users can also access FoodSwitch technology online at the new FoodSwitch (foodswitch.com.au) website. An Android update with the same expansion of features will follow next month.

Further reading