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An Explosion of Healthy Apps

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Retailers know their shoppers are taking a closer look at food labels these days. What they might not know is that they’re also using their phones to help decipher them.

Smartphones like the iPhone and Droid are incredibly versatile and can draw from a vast pool of customized applications, or apps. These include a growing number of nutrition guides that function almost as a handheld dietician, informing consumers of what different ingredients are and warning them about unhealthy choices.

apps.jpgWith the FoodEssentials Scanner, for example, you can scan a product’s bar code with your phone, then receive an alert if there are added sugars present. If so, the app provides a detailed rundown of what they are. FoodEssentials also serves as a monitoring system for allergens and other additives, and has a database of more than 35,000 ingredients.

Along these same lines is the CerealScan from Fooducate, which reads cereal bar codes and provides a tidy summary of what’s good and what’s bad among the different ingredients, and then lists healthier alternatives if they’re available.

My Grocery Master, meanwhile, is an app that’s useful outside of the supermarket. Enter in any healthy, hard-to-find food product and the program will alert you to nearby stores that carry it, and even provide driving directions to get there. The database is limited to retailers who have posted their inventories online, though the MGM makers expect that list to grow substantially in the near future.

So what do these programs say about the current consumer mindset? Mainly, that people are skeptical of health claims. They don’t trust claims of “immunity” and “a great source of (fill in the blank)”, and so on, and so are turning to technology to help them get to the bottom of things. Good for them. Any step closer to full transparency is a step in the right direction. Hopefully this will keep at least some companies honest.

(Creative Commons photo courtesy of gabofr)

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