FoodSwitch is a smartphone application launched by the Food Policy Group at The George Institute for Global Health, Australia designed to jointly support the individual and environmental approaches to the prevention of diet-related ill health.
FoodSwitch both empowers consumers in their efforts to make better food choices, while using the power of the crowd to source the data required to change the food environment. The app has been launched in Australia, New Zealand and the UK.
How FoodSwitch works
Packaged foods can often be high in salt, fat, sugar and kilojoules. Use FoodSwitch to see what’s in the food you’re eating and make better food choices when grocery shopping for you and your family.
FoodSwitch comes with handy filters to suit different health needs.
Use the autofocus camera on a supported smartphone or tablet to scan a packaged food’s barcode to get easy-to-understand nutritional information.
View results as either traffic-light style or Health Star Rating (HSR) labels. Both modes deliver results for energy, saturated fat, sugar, and salt so you can see at a glance how healthy the food item is.
If you’re in GlutenSwitch mode, you’ll also get an indication of whether the scanned food product contains gluten or not.
When you scan a food product you’ll also get a list of healthier choices you can switch to.
No matter which filter you’re using, healthier choices are first identified by comparing the overall nutritional value of foods based on the Health Star Rating score algorithm, taking into account a range of different factors important to general health including saturated fat, sugars, salt, energy, protein, dietary fibre, fruit, vegetables, nuts, and legumes (FVNL) content, and for some products, calcium.
If you’re using the SaltSwitch, EnergySwitch, FatSwitch or SugarSwitch filters, the healthier choices listed must also have a lower amount of the relevant nutrient (salt, kilojoules, saturated fat, and total sugar respectively) than the product you scanned.
If you’re using GlutenSwitch, the healthier choices in GlutenSwitch include only gluten-free alternatives.
Save, share, support
Add an item to a shopping list, share the information with others, or help us improve the app by reporting any potential issues.
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).
This filter is great for anyone looking to make overall healthier food choices.
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.
This filter helps people living with coeliac disease or a gluten intolerance to identify gluten-free products.
Likely gluten-free. This product is not marketed as gluten free but has no gluten-containing ingredients listed on the label.
Gluten-free. This product is reported as gluten free by the manufacturer and/or is naturally gluten free. Please check the label.
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.
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.
This filter can help people choose foods with lower energy (kilojoules) to help them manage their energy needs.
This filter helps people choose healthier foods with less total sugar.
Traffic Light Labelling mode
In ‘Traffic Light’ Labelling mode, you’ll see colour-coded ratings to let you know if a product is low (green), medium (amber) or high (red) for 3 key food components (total fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt).
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.
Bupa and The George Institute for Global Health joined forces to develop FoodSwitch as part of the Healthy Foods Initiative: helping Australians to make healthier food choices.
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 in Australia 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, FoodSwitch is just one of the ways that we’re empowering you with access to information and innovative tools to help you make informed decisions about what you eat.
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?
The FoodSwitch team is currently exploring opportunities to launch the app in other countries.
What if I have more questions about FoodSwitch?
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.