Foodswitch App

The Foodswitch App, helping consumers make healthier choices

The FoodSwitch App is a revolutionary new smartphone application (app) originally developed in Australia by The George Institute for Global Health and tailored for New Zealand shoppers by researchers at the University of Auckland’s National Institute for Health Innovation (NIHI). Less than five months post-launch, FoodSwitch has been downloaded by more than 30,000 New Zealanders and is well on its way to helping people reduce excessively high levels of fat, salt and sugar in their family’s diets.

How does the Foodswitch App work?

The FoodSwitch App works in just three easy steps: Consumers scan the barcode of packaged foods using their smartphone camera to see immediate, easy to understand nutritional advice in the form of traffic lights; receive healthier choices to switch to; and are able to share healthy shopping lists with friends and family.

The release of the FoodSwitch App – New Zealand is the result of several years of research by prominent food and health policy experts from The George Institute and researchers at NIHI. It was launched thanks to a new partnership with Bupa, one of New Zealand’s leading healthcare organisations.

The app displays healthier choices based on the nutritional value of more than 14,000 packaged food products found in New Zealand supermarkets. New Zealand shoppers are encouraged to help increase the number of products in the app by sending photos of packaged foods not already in the database. Since its launch New Zealand consumers have sent in more than 6000 new food products, most of which have already been added to the app.

What do the experts think?

Dr Helen Eyles from NIHI says “We are really pleased with the number of New Zealanders who have downloaded FoodSwitch so far, and hope we can help even more people to make healthier food choices in the future. About 60 per cent of New Zealand adults own a smartphone, and this number is growing all the time.”

“We also have exciting

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research underway and plans to release modified versions of FoodSwitch to meet the needs of different types of consumers, such as those interested in salt, or gluten free products”, she says.

NIHI nutrition researchers are currently in the set-up phase of two new trials related to the Foodswitch App. The first trial is funded by a new HRC programme grant led by Prof Cliona Ni Mhurchu. The StarLight trial involves 1,500 shoppers who will be randomised to receive different types of front-of-pack nutrition labels, including the traffic lights used in FoodSwitch. The aim of StarLight is to see which type of front-of-pack label best helps New Zealand shoppers make healthier food choices at the supermarket. The second trial is funded by the Heart Foundation of New Zealand and led by Dr Eyles. The aim is to see whether the SaltSwitch app (a modified version of FoodSwitch focussed on helping shoppers choose low-salt foods) can reduce purchases of salt in households where at least one member has a diagnosed cardiovascular disease.

Heart disease, stroke, diabetes and other diseases, largely caused by poor diets, are the biggest killers in New Zealand.

“Choosing a healthier diet has to be made easier, because good eating habits are one of the best and most cost-effective ways to prevent disease,” says Dr Eyles.

“For too long, people have been bewildered by confusing food labels” says Professor Cliona Ni Mhurchu, who leads NIHI’s nutrition research programme. “Research shows that people like traffic light labels and can use them to make healthier food choices. FoodSwitch aims to make it easier for all New Zealanders to make healthier choices about the foods they eat”.

FoodSwitch is available on iOS and Android smartphones, and can be downloaded for free on the New Zealand Apple iTunes and Google Play stores, or via the app store on their device.

For more information on the Foodswitch App, or to download the Foodswitch App, go to www.facebook.com/FoodSwitch or www.foodswitch.co.nz.

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