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Gluten-free shoppers to make more informed choices

Media release: 
22/04/2013

Australians with coeliac disease or a gluten intolerance will now be able to make better informed choices in the supermarket aisle, with the addition of the GlutenSwitch feature to Australia’s leading food label-scanning app, FoodSwitch.

FoodSwitch was developed by Bupa and The George Institute for Global Health and has been downloaded more than 300,000 times since its launch in January 2012.

The new GlutenSwitch function provides instant information about whether a scanned product contains gluten - it also recommends alternative gluten-free items, listed by order of healthiness.  At the same time, it shows consumer-friendly traffic lights for fat, saturated fat, sugars, salt and energy.

Lead researcher on the GlutenSwitch initiative at The George Institute for Global Health, Dr Elizabeth Dunford, said the new filter would empower people with coeliac disease or a gluten intolerance to make healthy food choices.

“Food choices can be really difficult for people with coeliac disease or gluten intolerance,” she said.  “Even if you can find a gluten-free alternative it’s often very hard to know how healthy it is. GlutenSwitch addresses both these problems.

“We know only a small portion of Australians read and understand food labels. FoodSwitch makes it simple for shoppers to identify the best options for their heath and reduce the risks of Australia’s biggest killers – heart disease, stroke and cancers.

“Since the launch of FoodSwitch we’ve had hundreds of requests for a gluten add-on, highlighting an unmet need of consumers with coeliac disease or gluten intolerance.”

Bupa Chief Medical Officer, Dr Paul Bates, said it had become clear since the first release of FoodSwitch that there were large communities of people looking for some extra help when it came to healthy food choices.  

“Having something without gluten doesn't automatically make it healthy and, as with many processed foods, some gluten-free products are high in sodium and saturated fat,” Dr Bates said.

“This isn’t about chasing a fad. GlutenSwitch helps consumers who must maintain a gluten-free diet choose the best options for their health, so they don’t have to cut out entire food groups which could leave them lacking some nutrients.”

Users can scan the barcode of packaged food using their smartphone camera to receive immediate, easy to understand nutritional information on close to 40,000 Australian supermarket products, including almost 10,000 gluten-free items.

When a product is scanned, the app indicates whether the product is gluten-free or contains gluten. It automatically provides suggestions for similar, but gluten-free options, when they are available.

GlutenSwitch is available as a free, Australian-only download from the App Store for iPhone™ 3GS/4/4S/5 and iPad 2 devices or the Google Marketplace for an Android version.

For more information, or to download the app, go to www.bupa.com.au/foodswitch.