A new filter for the FoodSwitch mobile phone app, called GlutenSwitch, has been launched to help Australians with coeliac disease or a gluten intolerance make more informed choices.
The new GlutenSwitch function provides instant information about whether a scanned product contains gluten. It also recommends gluten-free alternatives and shows consumer-friendly traffic lights for fat, saturated fat, sugars, salt and energy.
The FoodSwitch app and the new GlutenSwitch filter have been developed by health insurance company Bupa and research organisation The George Institute for Global Health. Users can scan the barcode of packaged food using their smartphone camera to receive immediate and easy-to-understand nutritional information about nearly 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 gluten-free options when they are available.
Lead researcher on the GlutenSwitch initiative at The George Institute, 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,” Dr Dunford 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,” she said.
“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 health and reduce the risks of Australia’s biggest killers – heart disease, stroke and cancers,” Dr Dunford added.
Dr Dunford said that since the initial launch of the FoodSwitch app, which has been downloaded 300,000 times since January 2012, its developers have hundreds of requests for a gluten-free add on.
Dr Paul Bates, Bupa Chief Medical Officer, said it had become clear since the first release of FoodSwitch that there were large communities of people looking for extra help when it came to healthy food choices.
“Having something without gluten doesn’t automatically make it health and, as with many processed foods, some gluten-free products are high in sodium and saturate 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,” he said.
The GlutenSwitch filter is available as a free, Australian-only download from the App Store.