FoodSwitch launched in China

Feeling stuck in the endless aisles of packaged food shopping for the family in the holiday season? Having made your New Year health resolution but don’t know how to make it come true? With the launch of an innovative nutrition application – FoodSwitch, Chinese customers will be empowered to make healthier food choices and prevent diet-related ill health.

The free mobile application, coming at the end of 2015 to China, is originally developed in Australia by The George Institute for Global Health, a not-for-profit medical research institute, and brought by China Center for mobile Health Innovation (CCmHI), an initiative whose mission was to support the development of community healthcare and contribute to mobile health (mHealth) innovation in China.

By simply scanning the barcode on a packaged food using phone camera, FoodSwitch can tell what’s in the packaged food you’re eating, whether it’s high in salt, fat, sugar and kilojoules. The result will be presented via easy-to-understand traffic light labelling system – red (high), amber (OK), and green (good). Healthier choices in the same category will be listed for customers to switch to.

Professor Zhi-Jie Zheng, Executive Director of The George Institute for Global Health, China, said that heart disease, stroke, diabetes and other diseases were largely attributable to poor diets caused by foods high in salt, sugar and fat. And as a consequence China suffers from a great burden of disease.

“People can be overwhelmed by the many brands of packaged food in a supermarket. For too long, Chinese people have been bewildered by confusing food labels.” said Professor Zheng, “There is an urgent need for awareness-raising and a more standardized and systematic way to support the labelling of packaged food in China.”

The app has already been launched and is popular in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, South Africa and India, and has helped hundreds of thousands of people to more easily choose a healthier diet.

Integrated with the China-specific food labeling system, it is brought to China as a platform that delivers on one of CCmHI’s priorities, which is to target the 10 leading causes of premature death and disability in China, while supporting the development and expanded use of mHealth technologies.

“The app combined the latest technology with high quality research.” said Associate Professor Puhong ZHANG, Acting Director of CCmHI and Diabetes Program Head at The George Institute for Global Health, China. “It displayed healthier options based on the nutritional value of more than 25,000 packaged food products found in China. The data supporting the app were collected together with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.”

Shoppers are encouraged to help increase the number of the food products by sending photos of any scanned items found not to be in the database. By crowd-sourcing food data across tens of thousands of food items, researchers, policy makers and manufacturers will have the information necessary to change the food environment.

“Because good eating habits are one of the best and most cost-effective ways to prevent disease, choosing a healthier diet has to be made easier.” said Professor Zhang.

“At this joyous holiday season when people are busy shopping for their family and friends, as well as setting up new health goals for 2016, we would love to introduce this simple and practical tool to the Chinese customers to help them stay healthy by scan and switch.”

FoodSwitch is available now on iPhone and Android. FoodSwitch is the basic function. More functions like SaltSwitch and EnergySwtich designed for specific groups of people hoping to reduce their salt or energy intake will be coming soon.

Please scan the barcode to download or go to the FoodSwitch China page for more information. 

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