The George Institute For Global Health
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FoodSwitch

Project status: 
Active

FoodSwitch is a data-technology platform developed by The George Institute for Global Health to support the prevention of diet-related ill health around the world. Its goals are jointly to influence stakeholders across the food system to improve the food environment and also to empower individuals to make healthier food choices.  

Packaged food products often contain surprisingly high-levels of salt, sugar, saturated fat and kilojoules/calories which may contribute to diet related health risks such as heart disease and diabetes. However, the nutrition information on pack labels can be confusing and it can be difficult to choose between the different brands. The FoodSwitch App can help you find out what is in the food you’re buying and suggest healthier alternatives for you and your family.

The FoodSwitch mobile App empowers consumers to make better food choices by providing simple health information on a scanned product and suggesting healthier alternatives to 'switch' to. The App also asks consumers to help-out by crowd-source images on new products. In turn this helps our research and advocacy for improved food environments. The App has been launched in the following countries:

You’re at your local supermarket. The many brand choices of packaged food can be overwhelming, and these products are often surprisingly high in salt, added sugar, saturated fat and kilojoules. So how can you decide what to put in your basket and make healthier choices for you and your family?

The free FoodSwitch app, developed by Bupa and The George Institute, can help you find out what is in the food you’re eating and suggest simple, healthier switches for you and your family. 

 

About FoodSwitch

Making even small changes to our diets, such as consuming a little less salt and added sugar, and eating less fat (particularly saturated fat) and energy (kilojoules) could prevent many health problems including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity and type 2 diabetes. This could in turn help reduce the incidence of heart attacks, strokes and some cancers.

Starting in the supermarket aisle, the FoodSwitch App empowers you with access to information to help you make informed decisions about what you eat.

By scanning a the barcode of a food item, FoodSwitch presents you with immediate, easy-to-understand information about that product’s nutritional make-up. Results are presented as either a simple 'Health Star Rating' which scores a food between 0.5 stars (least healthy) to 5 stars (healthiest), or as colour-coded 'traffic light' icons that show key nutrients as green (good), amber (so-so), and red (bad). FoodSwitch also presents a list of similar foods that are healthier alternatives.

How FoodSwitch works

FoodSwitch works by using the phone camera to scan the barcode of a packaged food. It then uses science-based algorithms to calculate and then display simple nutrition profiles based on the nutrition content of the food.

Select

FoodSwitch comes with the core FoodSwitch filter and additionally other filters based on different health interests.


Scan

Scan the barcode on a packaged food to get easy-to-understand nutritional information.

View results as either a Health Star Rating (HSR) or traffic-light coloured icons for key nutrients and energy. Both modes deliver results for energy, saturated fat, sugar, and salt 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.

The core FoodSwitch filter generates healthier choices by calculating the overall nutritional quality of foods. It uses the Health Star Rating algorithm to assess a range of different factors important to general health such as the amount of saturated fat, sugars, salt, energy, protein, dietary fibre, fruit, vegetables, nuts, legumes and for some products, calcium.

In the SaltSwitch, EnergySwitch, FatSwitch or SugarSwitch filters, the algorithm adapts the results based on the amount of the relevant nutrient (e.g. salt for SaltSwitch).

If you’re using GlutenSwitch, the healthier choices in GlutenSwitch include only gluten-free alternatives.


Support

Add an item to a shopping list, or report potential issues by simply swiping to the left or right of the screen for additional functions. 

Save your healthy favourites on a shopping list ready to make the switch next time you shop. Export your lists or share them with your friends via social media (eg. Facebook, Twitter and 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. 

GlutenSwitch

This filter helps people living with coeliac disease or a gluten intolerance to identify gluten-free products. 

Colour Gluten status

Red

Contains gluten

Amber

Likely gluten-free. This product is not marketed as gluten free but has no gluten-containing ingredients listed on the label.

Green    

Gluten-free. This product is reported as gluten free by the manufacturer and/or is naturally gluten free. Please check the label.

Grey

Unknown. This product has not yet been classified as gluten free or not and its gluten status is unknown.

It also gives you gluten-free alternatives listed in order of how healthy they are.

FatSwitch

This filter has been designed for people with, or being treated for, high cholesterol. This filter only lists healthier choices that have a lower amount of saturated fat than the scanned product. 

EnergySwitch

This filter can help people choose foods with lower energy (kilojoules) to help manage their energy needs or reduce the KJ (Calories) they consume.  

SugarSwitch

This filter helps people choose healthier foods with less total sugar.

 

VIEWING MODES

Traffic Light Labelling mode

Traffic Light icons show how key component of a food rates using colours - low (green), medium (amber) or high (red) for total fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt. Red is less healthy, Amber is OK and Green is a healthier choice. 

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

Are all the products in my local grocery store in the database?

FoodSwitch is powered by a large, independent packaged food products database in Australia, the result of years of ongoing research by food and health policy experts at The George Institute. However, as there are always new products coming on the market and some products only available in certain locations, not all food products available in Australia are in the database yet. This is why we encourage FoodSwitch users to help us add to the database.

If you scan a product that isn’t in the database, you can help by taking three photos through the app – one of the front of the product, one of the nutrition information panel and one of the ingredients list. These pictures will then automatically be sent to us so the item can be validated and added to the database. Please note that with users contributing more than 200 new products to the database every day, it can take some time for the product to appear in the FoodSwitch app as we need to first complete a series of quality control checks.  

How can we be sure FoodSwitch information is correct?

The database is updated regularly by The George Institute’s team of researchers along with the help of FoodSwitch users who can send in feedback about a particular product through the app or on the website. You’ll receive alerts from time to time when the database is updated and/or a new version of the app becomes available.

Why does FoodSwitch offer two viewing modes?

Many studies suggest that front-of-pack (FoP) labelling systems can help consumers interpret nutrition information panels (NIP) to make healthier food choices.

Research shows some people find traffic light or other colour-coded front-of-pack food labelling helps helpful. And in June 2014, the Australian government agreed to the voluntary implementation of an interpretive ‘Health Star Rating’ (HSR) front-of-pack labelling system for packaged foods in Australia. 

Both modes help highlight the fact that, while all foods can have a place in your diet, some are better for you than others.

What devices does FoodSwitch work on?

FoodSwitch works on: 
•    Apple1 mobile devices that have a camera with auto-focus. Requires iOS 7.0 or later. 
•    Android2 devices running versions 4.0.x and above that have a camera with auto-focus.

 

Please note that if you’re using a smartphone or tablet without a camera capable of auto-focus, the pictures of the barcode will be blurry and FoodSwitch will be unable to identify the barcode.

If you don’t have a compatible device, you can get the same experience by searching our database on the FoodSwitch website using your smartphone or PC.

Can I use the app outside Australia?

Currently, FoodSwitch can only be used in Australia, the UK, New Zealand, South Africa, India and China.

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 FAQ for more answers and to contact us by email

 

TERMS OF USE

Download and read the FoodSwitch Global Terms of Use (PDF 386KB)
Download the read the FoodSwitch South Africa Terms of Use (PDF 232KB)

 

DISCLAIMERS

1 iTunes and iPhone are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries, App Store is a service mark of Apple Inc.
2 Android and Google Play are trademarks of Google Inc

© The George Institute for Global Health Dec 2011. FoodSwitch provides nutritional information and healthier alternatives based on a scientific algorithm developed by The George Institute for Global Health and licensed to Bupa Australia Pty Ltd ABN 81 000 057 590 (“Bupa”). The information has been developed and reviewed by health professionals and to the best of their knowledge is current and based on reputable sources of evidence at the time of publishing. Whilst every care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the data, no warranty of this accuracy is provided. All users, especially those with special dietary requirements or food sensitivities, should assess the accuracy and relevance of this information for their personal circumstances. The information should be used as a guide only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional medical advice. The George Institute and Bupa  are not liable for any loss or damage you suffer arising out of the use of or reliance on the information, except that which cannot be excluded by law. We recommend that you consult your doctor or other qualified health professional if you have questions or concerns about your, or your family’s health.