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Healthy food app

This month a smartphone app called FoodSwitch is being launched by The University of Auckland's National Institute for Health Innovation (NIHI).

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The free app lets you scan the barcodes of packaged foods using your smartphone's camera. FoodSwitch then gives you colour-coded "traffic-light" information about the food's fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt content.

You'll be able to see at a glance whether a food has high (red) or medium-ish (orange) or low (green) amounts of total fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt. FoodSwitch will also give you a list of similar foods that are healthier choices ... and it lets you share all this via social media.

Professor Cliona Ni Mhurchu, who leads NIHI's nutrition research programme, says people have been bewildered by confusing food labels for too long. "Research shows that people like traffic-light labels and can use them to make healthier choices. FoodSwitch is a tool that can help them do this".

FoodSwitch was originally developed in Australia by The George Institute for Global Health and is being launched here with Bupa Care Services NZ. Auckland researchers have tailored it for New Zealand shoppers with over 8000 packaged foods in the database. What's more, shoppers can help increase this number – if you scan a barcode not in the database you're prompted to take three photos of the product's package for researchers to add new products to the app.

You will be able to download this free app at www.foodswitch.co.nz.

More from consumer.org.nz

  • Children's breakfast cereals - we've rated these products using "traffic light” criteria, the front-of-pack labelling Consumer has been campaigning for.