A new mobile phone application that helps track fat and sugar content in food has been launched in Melbourne today.
The Obesity Policy Coalition says the new Traffic Light Food Tracker will allow shoppers to bypass the food industry’s reluctance to support traffic light labelling.
Traffic light labelling puts red warnings on foods high in fat, sugar and salt, and green labels on healthy options.
Users can enter the fat, sugar and sodium quantities in their food items and save each item in their “pantry” within the phone app.
Earlier this year, a review of Australia’s food labelling laws failed to recommend a mandatory traffic light system for unhealthy foods, saying the system should only be implemented on a voluntary basis.
The Federal Government is due to respond to the recommendations for compulsory traffic light labelling later this year.
Obesity Policy Coalition spokeswoman Jane Martin says the system has been shown to improve people’s eating habits.
“We believe if traffic lights were mandatory on all packaged foods it would guide and empower consumers to make healthier choices for themselves and their families – that’s certainly what the evidence shows,” she said.
“It has been used in a voluntary capacity in the UK. For a category like ready meals with the traffic lights, sales of the healthy ready meals went up and sales of the unhealthy ready meals went down.
“Our research shows consumers want to know how much salt, sugar, saturated fat and total fat, is in the products they buy.
“Traffic light labels provide this information at a glance, and help shoppers sort the fat from the fiction.”
Melanie McGrice from the Dietitians Association of Australia says there should be mandatory front-of-pack food labelling that covers all food products.
But she says legislation, as well as the Traffic Light Food Tracker, needs to show both the nutritional benefits and unhealthy content of each food item.
“From what I’ve heard there may be a few issues with [the app]. You’re never going to find anything that’s perfect but I think what’s important is we find something that’s evidence-based,” she said.
“As for which is the way to go, I think we still need a bit more research into the best option.”
Earlier this year, Australian Food and Grocery Council spokeswoman Kate Carnell described the traffic light labelling plan as overkill, saying she was concerned by the cost to manufacturers.
“Already in Australia we have a front-of-pack labelling system on over 4,000 products that consumers are taking to very well, so it seems totally unnecessary,” she said.
The Obesity Policy Coalition partners include Diabetes Australia Victoria, the Cancer Council Victoria and the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (VicHealth).
Comments for this story are closed, but you can still have your say.
05 Sep 2011 12:03:59pm
I agree with providing as much information as possible to the consumer on health content of food, however I believe that a “traffic light” system oversimplifies the choices. I think it is unhelpful to apply such a minimalist system of “good”, “sometimes” or “bad” to every type of food.
Front of pack labelling for all products is a better way to go about it, with amounts of sodium, fat, etc per serving and per 100g mandatory.
There’s no need to treat everyone like a child and oversimplify things.
05 Sep 2011 12:41:15pm
Well luckily they are not forcing you to use the App! Some people might appreciate it and for those of you who are fed up with things being oversimplified, don’t download it!
05 Sep 2011 2:10:39pm
I think the App should be simplified further.
Rather than requiring the user to type in the contents of the product (boring and fiddly), why not have a barcode scanner using the smartphone’s camera?
Then an instant verdict could be delivered.
05 Sep 2011 3:30:47pm
Absolutely agreee. If the data entry was done for all of the groceries in our supermarkets and hooked up this app to the database, it would be much more useful.
This would be something that users could do, a la wikipedia, I bet it wouldn’t take long.
05 Sep 2011 6:45:28pm
Agree that a user built database with the barcode scanner would be a great next step, but there are some liability issues. Imagine you have a child with severe peanut allergy. You program the app to alert you if there is any traces of nuts in the product, and one slips through, and your child is hospitalized. Who is liable? In this world we cannot lay the blame on the parent. Not without spending tens of thousands in court first.
Love the concept, but it opens a few huge cans of worms.
05 Sep 2011 12:43:28pm
The lack of knowledge of how to read a nutritional information label is ASTOUNDING.
I work with public health researchers and in my opinion they struggle with interpreting a nutritional information label accurately.
How much sodium is too much?
How much carbs is too much?
How much sugar is too much? What about the type of that sugar?
How much protein is enough?
How much fibre is enough?
Put all that into the context of a per 100g serve or average serve amount and into the context of everything else they have eaten that day it becomes very time consuming.
Simplicity is not always best, but in this instance it will provide better outcomes.
05 Sep 2011 12:50:50pm
That wouldn’t help anything, it already is mandatory to label the contents in the food/drink per 100g. The real solution is to educate people on why ‘low-fat’ is usually ‘high-sugar’ and is worse for you, or that house brands are usually 50% more sodium or sugar content then mainstream brands, another bad thing.
There needs to be a national education program run across all major TV stations to educate people on making healthier choices by lowering sugar and salt intakes and changing people’s behaviour on ‘fat’ to being focused on ‘sugar and salt’.
05 Sep 2011 1:39:57pm
Sugar is the real enemy not fat.
05 Sep 2011 4:05:23pm
I totally agree! Sugar is the real enemy. I’ve consumed ‘diet products’ for years and it’s only recently that I’ve discovered the sugar is one of the main culprits for my constant struggle to lose weight. I’ve since cut sugar out almost completely and the weight is falling off.
05 Sep 2011 12:56:23pm
I have to disagree with that. Selective, front-of-pack labeling information has resulted in things like Icecream being self-advertised as an ‘important Calcium snack’.
05 Sep 2011 12:56:44pm
Simplifying food labelling is very silly as not all fats are equal, most sugar replacements are actually worse for you than sugar, and simply relying on “average” body types means if you are not the norm it could end up being worse for you.
I’d say learn about what different ingredients are, don’t leave it up to others to give you green, orange, or red to tell you what you can and can’t eat.
05 Sep 2011 4:04:24pm
The app separates saturated from total fat. And all we can do is take an average. Nutritional labels include daily recommended intake, which is again based on average.
All the traffic light system does is take the information that is already on the label and translate it into an easily understood visual system. It’s a proven system.
And you’re not being told what to eat. You’re being given information, albeit in a simplified form. But some people aren’t as switched on as you are and need that little extra help. And if it lowers obesity by helping people make better decisions about the food they eat, then why not?
05 Sep 2011 12:06:32pm
I really can’t see how this can work any better than the information that’s already there.
All the details of what’s in the pack are listed on the packaging already.
People just seem to be a bit lazy at reading this info, so what makes anyone think that people will be inclined to go to the extra effort of reading this info and then typing it out into an app?
The only thing that should be mandatory, if it’s not already, is the supply of detailed ingredients on all food packaging.
It should be made a lot more prominent on the packaging than it already is though.
We don’t all have a macro vision setting in our eyeballs.
05 Sep 2011 12:52:52pm
so when you purchase a 210g product which has 23.1g of total fats per serving which is recommended at 150g, what fat content am i actually consuming? should i really need to bring a calculator to the shops with me to help me choose which foods are better for me?
05 Sep 2011 3:25:08pm
That’s pretty much my point.
Howver, I bet you take your iPhone (whatever) with you though. ( “you” meaning anyone here)
And this article is about an app that does the calculating for you to produce a red / yellow / green light. (what are we all ? Kids?)
As I say, and you agree with, who the heck is going to go through that?
Oh and more importantly… It’s NOT fat you need to be checking.
Fat WILL NOT make you fat.
It’s the ADDED sugar you need to be looking at.
And no, you don’t need to do any of these things if you simply reduce / limit the amount of pre-packaged food you eat.
05 Sep 2011 1:09:51pm
I think that the main issue is that even though the nutritional information is readily available on the packaging, most people don’t know how to read it and interpret what is high in fat etc. The traffic light system is an effective and simple method of helping all shoppers understand the nutritional content of the product.
05 Sep 2011 4:05:34pm
05 Sep 2011 4:47:36pm
“helping all shoppers understand”
disagree. there will be an element of those that think “green” means eat as much as you want. i think it may create some dangers here for people without self control.
also, nutritionists don’t know everything about what we’re eating, and more importantly how foods interact with each other. as we have come to realise, not all fats are bad and combinations of foods have differing effects.
the problem lies with misleading marketing coupled with the lack of knowledge.
i personally think that while people are filling up their stomachs at the same place they fill up their car and not getting fresh food, no amount of labelling will fix the obesity/diabetic issues clogging our health system.
05 Sep 2011 6:13:43pm
People with no self control are not really the target though, are they? Those particular people are going to continue to eat their way through mountains of junk whether they know what’s in it or not; they just don’t care. I am not one of those people but I lived with one for 4 years and even after almost dying because his liver shut down due to what he as consuming (not alcohol), he still didn’t stop.
I welcome this app, but let’s be real; human beings physically just can’t take most of what we actually eat.
05 Sep 2011 1:12:35pm
The issue is not whether the information is there, but whether the information is understandable. Ok, so my 600mL bottle of Coke has 64g of sugar per serving (which on a 600mL bottle, is 600mL; however a serving on a 450mL bottle is 450mL… but that’s a whole other issue).
It also tells me that the 64g of sugar represents 71% of my Recommended Daily Intake.
But there are plenty of people to whom that means diddlysquat. Yes, there are people who don’t read the ABC News, and actually put their faith into Today Tonight, Sunrise, or A Current Affair!
A traffic light system sounds like a great method to approach food education. It’s something that everyone does understand.
I don’t need it. I may well ignore it. But considering the nation’s obesity problem, and the fact that industry wont change without regulation, something needs to be done.
Frog in the dunny:
05 Sep 2011 12:24:48pm
If the packaged-food lobby doesn’t like it, it’s probably a good thing. Education is the key; that’s working for other discretionary health issues like smoking.
05 Sep 2011 1:44:32pm
Good comment, ‘Frog in the dunny’ Readers need to be alert the food inductstry lobby, and their PR companies trying to hijack the issue rased here.
05 Sep 2011 12:28:35pm
it is true that currently most foods have detailed nutritional information, and if you can determine what a serving is, you can then scour through the fine print and make a selection.
That said, this is a time consuming and frustrating process when the information is in minuscule print with three seperate serving suggestion sizes.
I say keep the current information and add the traffic light system for a quick reference. If you want the full information you can then opt to read it.
05 Sep 2011 12:51:41pm
I find it amusing that non-resealable cans of a well known brand of soft drink are advertised as being “2.5 servings”.
05 Sep 2011 12:34:01pm
Well I just downloaded the app and checked the calculator with a can of red bull. Apparently a good choice it seems. I beg to differ…
05 Sep 2011 12:34:07pm
I spend much of my day talking to people about eating. I am amazed at what people think is healthy food.
Hummus – 72% calories from fat
Cruskits – 24% calories from fat
These are just two example foods today
Even Nutella is advertised as “gluten free” It’s 52% calories from fat.
Seriously, are we as a nation doing a good job on obesity? I hate to have to appeal to the lowest common denominator, but I think we have to use traffic light symbols.
05 Sep 2011 1:41:21pm
Fat does not cause obesity. Sugars, starches do
05 Sep 2011 2:29:26pm
… and then it depends on which type of fat. One has to distinguish between the good fats (which include saturated animal fats as well as polyunsaturated unmodified vegetable oils) from the mono- and hydrogenated nasties….
05 Sep 2011 7:02:07pm
Fat does not cause obesity?
I’m no expert, so I won’t refute this but I am very curious.
If you intake more calories than you burn then the excess is stored, correct? And fat is the highest energy source, more than sugars, so why does fat intake contribute to obesity?
Genuine and learned answer greatly appreciated!
05 Sep 2011 1:58:02pm
I agree here. It is hard for consumers to decipher for themselves (external to advertising) what is good food, without having the scientific understanding. Let’s face it, we are never going to be able to educate the whole population to that level.
A traffic light system, although simple, provides a base level for making healthy eating choices. Yes, many people have pointed out that when it gets down to it, different sugars, preservatives, ‘natural’ foods, all have issues. But if you really want to get into it, then you need to research into this, if your the general population and want to make a decision between a candy bar and a healthier option, this is going to help you on your way.
05 Sep 2011 2:35:40pm
gluten free has nothing to do with being healthy, it’s an allergy and intolerance warning. the fact that you think gluten free is a health claim really does illustrate how ignorant people are about nutrition and labeling.
05 Sep 2011 12:44:24pm
Oh… yeah, I see. It’s the EVIL CORPORATION’S fault. That’s why you’re overweight. How many different ways exactly are people going to need to be told “This is bad for you!” before you decide not to eat five of them two hours before bed?
Perhaps we need to go right to the plain packaging as we’ve done with cigarettes with no other indications on it other than the product’s fat, sugar and salt content? Let’s face it, now that what, less than 15% of Australia smoking? Obesity and type II diabetes will quickly become the country’s leading cause of preventable death.
05 Sep 2011 4:16:24pm
You’re all over the place! Are you being sarcastic? I ask ’cause you’re last sentence hit the mark. Diseases related to obesity will overwhelm tax funded health programs. This is a simple way that, whether you like it or not, will likely work.
Also, we can keep saying it is the consumers fault, and there’s some truth to that, but why do you think EVIL CORPORATIONS hire marketing and advertising firms? It isnt to tell people the truth – it’s to basically manipulate us into buying their crap by taking advantage of the hardwired weaknesses we all have.
Yes… we are all susceptible.
05 Sep 2011 12:47:07pm
I have just found my first good reason to purchase an iPhone as my next handset.
05 Sep 2011 2:41:16pm
Except that the app is available on Android phones as well.
05 Sep 2011 12:49:38pm
make it even simpler, most smart phones can read a barcode, so instead of even having to punch in any information, have the products listed …. simple.
05 Sep 2011 12:50:10pm
i agree with the idea of the traffic light system. its a simple way of saying “if youre trying to lose weight dont eat this”, i would personally benefit.
Christopher Hobe Morrison:
05 Sep 2011 12:51:06pm
Take the bar code for any food item. Enter it and you have identified the product. Now look up the food item and look up any information on that product you think is useful, and display it on the phone! Calculate anything you need from the information you get such as the nutritional information contained in a cup or in the amount you need in a particular recipe for example. But it doesn’t need to be anything as narrow as this. There are so many things you can do with this!
05 Sep 2011 1:17:12pm
That is exactly what I was expecting to read when I clicked the link to read about the app. To require manual entry without any context to total energy intake and the composition of energy types, salt and fibre makes this app really underwhelming.
05 Sep 2011 1:00:07pm
It does make sense, I have to say, especially for a quick comparison. Despite the fact the information is already available on products ie Nutritional Info per 100g for example, this method of visualisation makes it easy to compare between items. It’s just another tool really. And I quess, I can see people quickly scanning the back of the packet and seeing the symbols rathers than be confronted with numbers. It’s an easy visual thing. It’s immediate, and people are use to the Red, Green, Yello concept.
Having it as an app (instead of the back of packets) just means that, I could pre-load the usual items I normally buy at the shops on there, or key it in and see how it compares with others.
Anyway, the app is free so I’ll be downloading it to give it a try.
05 Sep 2011 1:00:10pm
Although the information is there on food packages, older people, like myself, often can not read it because of the way it is printed. Small print little contrast between the print background make it too hard to see. The ‘traffic light’ idea has a lot of merit.
05 Sep 2011 2:24:36pm
I agree Penny — until companies (and publishers) wise up, I think we will see more and more solutions to the “tyranny of tiny print”
05 Sep 2011 1:00:42pm
I feel this application is a good start. However, what would be even better is an app that allows you to scan or have the name of the product entered. It would then match it with an online database kept up to date and cross checked by consumers. The traffic lights would then be displayed for that item.
This would be another example of technology by-passing the desire of companies to keep labeling as confusing, indecipherable and sometimes even misleading (arguably) as possible.
All those “foods” that promote themselves as healthy (esp for children) that are high in sugar, salt, fat etc but which have a few factory made vitamins and minerals sprinkled on top are a case in point.
Another traffic light could be for the glycemic index, helping people to see what effect the food they are about to buy will likely have on their blood sugar levels.
Assuming food labeling laws wont be changing any time soon in this country, such an app would give consumers what they need: A simple and quick way to be informed about the potential health consequences of what they are preparing to put into their and their families’ stomachs.
Of course a healthy lifestyle goes beyond food, but given the obesity / diabetes epidemics etc, wouldn’t this be one positive step in the right direction?
05 Sep 2011 1:01:37pm
Hm. If you need to enter the nutritional information for a choc bar – somehow, I don’t think the traffic light system is going to help you. What is interesting is that there are studies that show that there is no real benefit to this system.
05 Sep 2011 3:29:00pm
oh yeah and who commissioned these studies you speak of? probably nestle or heinz in a pathetic effort to establish a counter-argument.
the fact is the cheapest and easiest and most profitable way of making food appealing to the general consumer is to increase levels of fat, salt sugar. do you think soft-drinks all have about the same amount of sugar by coincidence??
05 Sep 2011 4:51:12pm
Actualy it was the same company that covered both. They did a report for the UK market if I remember correctly.
05 Sep 2011 1:03:52pm
Traffic lights are a great idea. Keep numbers for people who want detail but I think most, like me, want quick and simple.
Numbers have little meaning for me. 1000kj in 100g: is that good? Might be good for a bulky apple but terrible for crisps since I eat the whole pack.
The next thing I want is to get rid of fat free labels for lollies. Yeah, fat free but 100% sugar.
05 Sep 2011 1:05:58pm
For someone who has only recently started to wear reading glasses, I have a bad habit of leaving them at home and therefore whilst shopping am unable to read the ‘fine print’ associated with the nutritional information.
By utilising the ‘traffic light’ system it will make it a look easier to identify the ‘good from the bad’ and be able to make the necessary conscious decision to opt out of the ‘bad foods’ when I forget my ‘extra eyes’.
05 Sep 2011 1:07:33pm
Meh, I would prefer they remove all mandatory nutritional labelling from packaged food, also get rid of all warning labels on chemicals as well.
Then sit back and let natural selection do its bit.
Every warning label you see is slowing down human evolution.
05 Sep 2011 1:09:07pm
I recently downloaded the new Woolworths’ app where you can scan items in your cupboard and add to a shopping list. They should do the same with this app. Scanning the item would be much easier than having to type all the info in yourself.
05 Sep 2011 1:09:14pm
The app needs to let the user take a photo of the barcode and then pull up the traffic lights based on that…
If people have to type the things in manually, then they aren’t going to bother.
05 Sep 2011 1:09:39pm
If people choose to use it then fine. But to say obesity is caused by people not understanding what will make them fat is ridiculous. If you want to be healthy just educate yourself a tinly little bit. The prevelant contention in our society that all our problems are ‘someone elses fault’ drives me up the wall !.
05 Sep 2011 1:20:04pm
We need traffic light labels.
Research tells us that over 20% of the population cannot read and comprehend the label on their prescription medicine packet.
The fine print on a food pack would be much to hard for even more folks to read and for others the print on the packet is far to small.
05 Sep 2011 2:18:42pm
Very true. My mother is 57 and has to ask me to read labels. Thankfully, she doesn’t have any food allergies or it would be a real nightmare.
That would be good to add to the app – allergens and a larger version of the ingredient label that is easier to read (as some people have super-obscure allergies and their allergens may not be listed on allergy warning sections).
Of course, all this assumes that people will a) use it and b) know what it means.
05 Sep 2011 1:21:29pm
A step in the right direction. As long as it stays voluntary I think this is a good move. I think I’ll buy this app,
05 Sep 2011 1:23:37pm
I’ve never seen anyone reading food labels in the supermarket, so what makes anyone think that purchasing a mobile phone application is going to make it any simpler? And who has the time to stand there and include all the items they buy? It takes long enough going around the isles to get everything you need and through the checkout without spending an extra half hour typing in each products information. Get real…..
I think we are spending far too much time treating everyone like a moron, and that they can’t read very small writing.
This sounds very much like an excuse to sell us another product that a) we don’t need; b) can’t afford; and c) we will only use once or twice and then not use again…
Sadly people will always buy foods that are not totally healthy, it is up to each person to take control of their own health and food choices and not leave it to government legislation to stop them buying the odd chocolate bar or three.
05 Sep 2011 1:28:03pm
As an obese person myself, I wonder why this app doesn’t advise on the ‘traffic light’ of the calories in the food. Pasta would probably pass the sugar/fat/sodium testing but you still shouldn’t eat more than a small bowl.
05 Sep 2011 3:02:19pm
Pasta is a good and healthy food, there are not really ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods. There are foods you should eat alot of: fresh fruit and veg, lean meat etc. There foods you should eat a little bit of: eg chocolate bikkies. Unfortunately I can’t see an app helping people with food portions.
05 Sep 2011 1:35:49pm
Fat Secret on Android has had the functionality for a very long time. Highly recommended application. It also allows you to keep track of your daily intakes, etc.
Just scan the barcode or manually search for products. You can also submit products they don’t already have by entering in the relevant data. They will then chase it up and make sure the correct data is added.
05 Sep 2011 1:43:33pm
This rates well in the “scream test” – the louder the food lobby screams the better the idea is.
It also passes the choice test. Now you can work your way through the detail if you want or choose to have a summary – great stuff and not a piece of legislation and political interference involved.
Core Physiology and Nutrition:
05 Sep 2011 1:43:59pm
Education is the key. Reading food labels can be quite easy, if it’s not 15g sugar/100g 10g fat/100g, DON’T BUY IT!
05 Sep 2011 1:52:03pm
Although ‘too simple’ as many other comments have pointed out, a traffic light system is a great starting point. It is visual and indeed even as an adult who has a university degree that tells me I do know more than a Traffic light system, I still seem to be able to eat plenty of ‘red’ items.
I believe that having these symbols on food will help me think twice, but certainly implement a base level of education into these foods for the general population. I’m sure many Mums Dads out there packing lunch boxes may get a surprise or two and it may just be the thing that helps many adults curb a little bit of their eating.
Sometimes the simplest of things are the best.
05 Sep 2011 1:54:34pm
Really annoyed that I have to type in all these numbers. How hard would it be to tie it to a barcode scanner?!
Without the ability to quickly enter data (via barcode scanning) I can’t see anyone using this beyond an initial test.
Sad fail 🙁
05 Sep 2011 2:29:09pm
Maybe, but it’d be worth entering it for things you eat or indulge in regularly…you’d only need to do it once then you’d know whether it was good/bad or whatever.
Doesn’t barcode scanning only work if you have the relevant database anyway? A database that varies from store to store?
05 Sep 2011 1:59:35pm
Please lets stop all this counting! It reminds me of the eighties and those awful Jane Fonda aerobic videos we had at boarding school.
Im sure most of us have had a little education with whats good for us and what isnt. AND we well know that sugar, fats (oils butter etc.), alcohol, carbohydrates are all good, in moderation. We all know that having a fast food burger with a large chips and soft drink is not the ideal every day lunch, though as a sometimes (my niece uses this term) lunch.
We all see healthy eating advice every day on one form or another from the cafe you visit, to supermarket, doctors waiting room and splashed all over various multimedia, now mush we have it travelling in our pockets too?
05 Sep 2011 2:00:14pm
14-21% of patients never fill prescriptions
30-50% dont take medication in recommended manner
66% with hypertension have poor BP control due to non-adherence
50% adherence to chronic conditions treatment
21% of Type 2 Diabetics never check BGL’s
Looks to me the simpler the better as there are a lot of simple people out there that just don’t get it
05 Sep 2011 2:00:16pm
I still carry my product info card from greenpeace that provides info on GM product usage. So long as the app contents can be proven to be accurate it’s a fantastic step forwards in consumer driven democracy. I’ve never understood why both the major parties are so terrified of upsetting retailers on this issue. The fact that many food producers are hell bent on witholding this information should be sending alarm bells ringing the world over…
05 Sep 2011 2:09:14pm
For shopping, I use the Scan2List app. Unlike a lot of the shopping apps (especially for groceries), this one lists Australian products and Australian shops. It’s free, if you don’t mind the occasional unobtrusive ad.
Like the Traffic Light app in this article, you set up a “pantry” of items you buy. I found it wasn’t tedious to input each item, especially as the app also scans barcodes via the phone camera. Now I have a main list of grocery items (you can create multiple lists for different types of shopping), and any time I need to go shopping, I just tick the items I want and create a shopping list.
I mention this because:
1. I want to show how easy it is to use an app to help you with choices (it helps me a lot, since I have visual and concentration difficulties), and how a few minutes spent setting something up can save you hours down the track.
2. The Age app had an article on grocery-shopping apps, and only quoted non-Australian ones (big help, guys, thanks 🙁 )
3. Add a nutrition feature and it would be an even bigger help!
So, ABC, how a about a follow-up with the grocery chains who provide info for Scan2List? Surely they’d be happy to add healthy value to their database?
Also, thanks for featuring an app which actually works with Australian products. ABC 1, Fairfax 0.
05 Sep 2011 2:18:58pm
Oh dear, you dont understand overweight people at all. I’m overweight and I know exactly what is bad good for me. But when I’m upset, anxious, celebrating or bored, I really dont care what the food label says, I just want the comfort that food gives me.
05 Sep 2011 2:22:26pm
Nutritional content is somewhat shown by the existing tables, although still lacking important information. More detail is still needed as well as the GM content of foods. Detailled labelling laws would be much more useful.
05 Sep 2011 2:26:15pm
If the iPhone app also included “Traffic Lights” for carcinogens, sustainability and animal cruelty it would be perfect.
Lord Barry Boncton:
05 Sep 2011 2:40:17pm
All the Mc fat burgers from all the cheap and fat food factories will have RED ALL OVER THEM and that is why we have to bring a calculator and magnifing glass with us, to do the shopping and a scientist to calculate the graphs. Big Business won’t like that , what about their Fat prfits ????
05 Sep 2011 3:07:59pm
Of course, it’s not the consumer. Nooooo… they’re being mislead by McCorporation! This one is a no brainer. Simply don’t buy the McFat Burger. You don’t need a computer or a telephone to tell you that the majority of fast food is bad for you. We’ve known this since the 80s. It’s common knowledge with anti-slogans coming from all angles BUT people keep buying it! This would suggest that A) they’re really stupid or B) extremely susceptible to advertising.
It’s not big business to blame here, Dude as ultimately, the choice rests with the consumer who, has been pretty thoroughly educated, I would say, as to the pitfalls of bad dietary habits.
Also, if you don’t like paying businesses and the like for your food the alternative is you plant, harvest, hunt and prepare it all yourself. Luckily we live in a democracy that would allow you to do so 🙂
05 Sep 2011 3:07:12pm
I personally don’t know how effective a traffic light scheme would be, but given the resistance of the food industry I suspect it would be quite effective
05 Sep 2011 3:22:56pm
I don’t think mandatory traffic light labelling is really needed.
At the moment most products have a “percentage of daily intake per serving” labelling on the front, which is good. It’s less complicated than the full nutritional chart without simplifying it into overly broad categories of “good” and “bad” (let’s be realistic – you probably already know that).
It’s not hard to read, it’s right there at a glance (for those products that have it, but seems to be most of them).
If you can’t understand a label telling you that the can of soft drink is 60% RDI of sugar, then I don’t think sticking a red light there in its place is going to help you any.
05 Sep 2011 3:26:15pm
It is good to see that some good is coming out of new technology. It is, unfortunately, impossible to deter softdrink addicts. You can have red blinking traffic lights and still is not going to do much good.
Personally I have a set of very simple rules.
1. Avoid food that are heavily advertised and promoted by skinny tall models in bright red dresses.
2. Avoid food that promised weight loss.
3. Avoid food that claimed instant satisfactions (better than sex ?).
4. Avoid food that are heavily targeted at children.
5. Unprocessed food are best.
6. Most food are good for you if consumed in moderation.
7. Home cooked meals are better than ready cooked ones.
05 Sep 2011 3:26:49pm
I have purchased food in the UK where they have this system. It is great! It is not a “simple” as some people think – it generally has 3 lights – one each for fats, sugars and sodium. So some foods will be green for fat but red for sugar and sodium etc. At a glance you can see you are looking for foods with more green and orange lights and fewer red lights. It makes choices between similar products – eg: two brands of yoghurt – so much easier.
05 Sep 2011 3:28:33pm
Why not just buy FRESH fruit, vegetables and meat? It isn’t complicated.
Why waste your money and your health on food mate in huge vats? (if you could see how they were made you would never ever eat it again).
05 Sep 2011 3:29:19pm
The message I get from the previous posts is that a coordinated and purposeful national health literacy strategy is warranted to improve the ability to interpret and apply health information. HOWEVER (and that’s a big however), even health-literate people will do this all the time, due to the intrinsic/unconscious/emotional aspects of food choice. I’d also like to see attention given to gender issues — ie males who are vehement about ‘not wanting to be the sort of person who makes food decisions based on nutrition labels’ (actual statement). The inescapable conclusion is that we need to keep pressing for food reformulation: if the food is healthier to begin with, it takes a lot of the hassle out of these ‘choices’. And I think that this is what ‘traffic light’ labelling is meant to do — encourage the food industry to provide foods that get green lights.
05 Sep 2011 3:37:01pm
I would like to see this on labels.
I like to know the nutritional info on most of what I buy, but so many don’t bother to look or care.
Put it on the front label and make it compulsory. I can’t imagine it would be difficult to guess who would fight against it the hardest.
05 Sep 2011 3:41:08pm
What a fantastic application, it bypasses the vested interests of multinationals, and intransigence of governments. A smart phone with a camera could read the product bar codes and flag products in seconds. Grass roots empowerment to the masses. A good use for a smart phone and apps.
05 Sep 2011 3:49:19pm
Awesome! I just got the app. I’ve already put all the food stuffs in my cubicle into the app! I NEED MORE FOOD STUFFS!!!
And I really hope we can make it law across the country to include this information on all packaged food. A wonderful, simple, and proven intiative.
05 Sep 2011 3:49:31pm
Think back to your grandparents who wern’t exposed to additives ,who prepared their own food, Weight was not a problem.Why not get off your butts and prepair your own food, dont rely on prepack rubbish full of fats preservatives… Stop winging…..
05 Sep 2011 4:37:38pm
I note that the mobile has nil reception bars (top of mobile handset) so the user will not be able to share the shopping results. No wonder, the carrier is Vodafone!
05 Sep 2011 5:20:39pm
I’m really interested in this program; only problem for me, I’m sure I’m not alone, is there plans for a computer software version planned / available??
05 Sep 2011 5:24:22pm
Any food that has a shelf life of two years because of the amount of salt, sugar and artificial preservatives added should be avoided AT ALL COST!! The low-fat food industry has successfully duped the majority of the population into believing that their low-fat, high sugar pretend foods are doing us a favour. If we just shopped around the perimeter of the supermarket (fresh fruit and veg, meat, eggs, dairy and some frozen food) and avoided the middle isles, we wouldn’t have to question whether or not this pretend food is doing us any harm.
As a few posters have pointed out, sugar is the enemy but this works against the packaged food companies lie about low-fat. This pretend food should be the exception, not the rule in our day to day diets.
05 Sep 2011 6:09:51pm
perhaps put the traffic lights at the ends of the supermarket isle? green on the fruit and veg isle, red on the soft drink isle?
05 Sep 2011 6:16:00pm
The most interesting question for me is whether this will be used practically by people who need it. Generally, people who know so little about food additives that they need an app, probably aren’t interested enough to seek out the app in the first place. I would think the bulk of people who use this will simply be validating what they already know.
05 Sep 2011 6:24:28pm
Australians don’t realise how good they have it already in terms of food labelling. On a trip to Europe recently, the labels here are totally inadequate, not even showing amounts of sodium etc. We’re way ahead of European countries.
05 Sep 2011 6:30:13pm
Honestly, we put so much emphasis on food and diets, really people just need to stop being so lazy and get of their over large bums and start doing some serious physical activity.
05 Sep 2011 6:36:58pm
If we can have country of origin labelling for sea food and fruit, why can’t we have meat grades as well. If you by meat in the US it is labelled from prime (best), Choice (2nd best), Select (low grade sold in retail) down to canner at the bottom end. This way we can compare meat grades and cost.
05 Sep 2011 6:54:35pm
Surely any idiot can work out at a glance if a product is healthy or not. Most naturally grown fresh produce is ok whilst combinations of sugars/fats and dehydrated and processed foods often hydrolized and stuck in a fancy packet is not worth the investment. Buy fresh produce and use meats and fresh fish with cartilage and bone. Squeeze your own juices or buy locally produced juice. Otherwise you will end up having to buy condroitin and glucosamine in tablet form and vitamin C in a bottle. Buy wholemeal or brown starches (grains), and seeds and spices to compliment your menu. Buy whole milk, home grown eggs and meats and natural butter. Stuff the rest! Go back to basics like our ancestors did. Coke and Pepsi are tabu.
05 Sep 2011 7:14:29pm
Great idea because the more information available to consumers the better the pricing system works and hence the better the supply/ demand economy works. This is an excellent example of the democratisation of information that Web 2.0 is enabling. A traffic light app on companys’ social and environmental record should be next.
05 Sep 2011 7:47:30pm
The current labelling is a bit of a mishmash. You buy something that is measured in ml’s and the precentages are shown in grams. How are we supposed to work that one out?
Comments for this story are closed, but you can still have your say.