Can new app Fooducate help families be better shoppers?

My friend called yesterday to tell me about a new food app that she thought I would like.

It’s called Fooducate. It’s free and it works on Apple products and Androids. You can download it here.

The idea is that while you are in the grocery store, you can scan the UPC code to quickly determine a letter grade for the food. It gives you warnings about items in the food, gives you the Weight Watchers points for the food and then also offers alternatives. It could in theory help you determine if one brand is better for you than another brand.

From the Fooducate website:

“Are you confused by ingredient lists, nutrition labels, health claims and marketing hype? Fooducate is here to help. We are a team of parents, dietitians, and techies. We realize that at the supermarket you have very little time to analyze food labels and extract the information that is important to you. We’d like to help you make better choices for you and your family.

It also offers the Weight Watchers points for the items so you don’t have to look that up in second place.

Get the Fooducate mobile application and use it to:

  • Automatically scan a product barcode
  • See product highlights (both good & bad)
  • Compare products
  • Select better alternatives
  • Dig deeper and learn more about food and nutrition

Features:

  • Created by dietitians and concerned parents
  • Uses your mobile’s camera to effortlessly scan UPC barcode
  • Over 200,000 unique products and growing daily
  • Simplified information helps you make better choices
  • Works on iPhone, iPod touch, iPad and Android OS version 2.2 and up

“… Fooducate is like taking your own personal dietitian to the supermarket…”

Fooducate analyzes information found in each product’s nutrition panel and ingredient list.

You get to see the stuff manufacturers don’t want you to notice, such as

  • excessive sugar
  • tricky trans fats
  • additives and preservatives
  • high fructose corn syrup
  • controversial food colorings
  • confusing serving sizes
  • and more…

Just pick up a product from the shelf, scan it, and let Fooducate do the rest.

Fooducate is NOT funded or influenced by food manufacturers, supplement companies, diets, or any sort of magic pill.”

I downloaded it to my phone and tested it out in my pantry. (I have two sick kids at home. I couldn’t run to the grocery store.)

So the first item I scanned – Campbell’s Minestrone Soup  — it said it didn’t have the product in it’s system.

So then I scanned the Campbell’s Dora the Explorer Chicken noodle soup. It gave it a B minus and reported that I should:

Look out because it doesn’t have whole grain

Salty – has over 20 percent of the daily max

Contains MSG

Food points value is 2

Learn about mechanically separate meat.

Then it offered other alternative to this soup.

So that is actually helpful. I am a big pain about choosing hotdogs that aren’t mechanically separated so I don’t like that being in my kid’s soup.

Then I tried my Kraft Fat Free Thousand Island Dressing. It liked it even less. It gave it a D plus.

Contains controversial artificial colors

Contains phosphoric acid

Points value of 1

Contains high-fructose corn syrup

Has EDTA, on FDA’s toxicity watch list (I’ve never even heard of this – this does not sound good.)

It also did not like my Mrs. Butterworth’s Lite Syrup – again a D plus. (This is depressing.) The healthier alternatives were Agave syrup (B minus) or a Walden Farms syrup, which was a C.

I think these types of warnings would make you think and probably change what you choose in the store. I also think it could lead to frustration of what can I eat? Maybe we don’t want to know this much about what we’re buying?

So what do you think? Do you like the idea of this app? Would you use this app? Would it take too much time? Would you change what you were buying based on this info? How bad would the rating have to be for you to put it down? (I think the chemicals and additives are scarier than too much sodium or sugar.)

Would you try this app? If you do, report back and let us know what you think.

29 comments Add your comment

kevinmorris

January 25th, 2012
1:35 am

Yes most of the brands do give out samples of their products. Look for “Get Official Samples” online and get the samples. They are the best. You wont need CC.

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catlady

January 25th, 2012
8:13 am

I find this pretty scary, actually. This app is only good if the rating folks are absolutely truthful, not on the take, and accurate. I have doubts about all of these

mom2alex&max

January 25th, 2012
8:51 am

Sounds too complicated. I don’t have the time or inclination to check every single product I buy.

Techmom

January 25th, 2012
8:54 am

I’m all about eating healthy but there are certain things that likely will never get an A. Example: even the BEST syrup they recommended only gets a B. Probably b/c of the high sugar content (even if it is natural) and you shouldn’t consume too much. But let’s get realistic about the cost of groceries and what the average family can afford. A 24oz bottle of Mrs. Butterworth’s is probably $3 (less if you’re like me and shop sales and use coupons). A 12 oz bottle of Agave Syrup on Amazon (b/c I doubt you can find it anywhere locally except health food stores and you they’re not exactly on every corner in Ga) is $12 plus $6 s/h. So maybe if it suggested price-comparable items, it might be worth it but if it’s basically going to tell me to just buy expensive organic food that’s not readily available, eh not so much.

JOD

January 25th, 2012
8:55 am

Nope. I have an Android phone and it is great for keeping up with email and Facebook, but there’s no way I’ll scan every UPC I pick up to a) determine if it’s healthy, or b) see if I can save a nickel by driving across town. I swear people are going to start implanting these things on their bodies in the future.

I had to look up ‘mechanically separated meat’ since it is not in anything I buy – gross. I only buy Kosher hot dogs (Hebrew National) and hormone-free/grass-fed meats because the alternative is repulsive to me. Eating ‘whole’ foods (e.g. minimally processed or the natural/organic version when possible) eliminates the need for this app IMHO.

JOD

January 25th, 2012
8:57 am

@Techmom – Good point on cost. I know that certain grades of syrup are better (like Grade A Dark Amber, which has health beneftis), so that is what we buy. It is definitely more expensive, though. Guess everything’s a trade off :o)

K's mom

January 25th, 2012
9:03 am

The thing is, if you use your brain and visually scan a label you can do the same thing without an app. I agree with the comments that the more whole foods you eat, the better off you are and I do not need a computer program to tell me that.

mystery poster

January 25th, 2012
9:36 am

@techmom
Walmart carries Agave nectar.

mystery poster

January 25th, 2012
9:37 am

I would rather eat a tablespoon of real maple syrup than 1/4 c of Mrs. Butterworths. There is no need to drown your pancakes in syrup.
Same with butter and margarine, smaller amount of the real stuff.

jarvis

January 25th, 2012
9:41 am

If I rolled my eyes at this any harder they would have unscrewed from my head.

Use common sense. Keep your kids active, give them a daily multi, and limit schlitzy food in moderation.
Balance high sodium foods with an appropriate increase in water. It’ll flush right out.

I have a good friend that obsesses over processed foods and sodium. Everything is “whole”. She’s 50 lbs. over weight, her kids are fat lathargic rude little turds, and she drinks every night of her life.

In short….she’s obsessing over useless data.

Jarvis' Good Friend

January 25th, 2012
9:56 am

If you had to be Jarvis’ good friend you would drink every night too.

Why is the Rum gone?

Jeff

January 25th, 2012
10:02 am

I think it will help the people that care. Sadly, it won’t change the people that don’t. Another example of a divide getting wider?

Techmom

January 25th, 2012
10:11 am

@Mystery Poster – nectar or syrup? Syrup appears to be much more expensive.

We don’t eat syrup very often and my husband loves real maple syrup so that’s actually what we use BUT I was making a point that this app will likely never give an A to certain foods AND some of the alternatives are likely out of the average family’s budget.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

January 25th, 2012
10:15 am

Techmom — About a year ago I was comparing my fake syrup with a friend’s real Maple syrup over the phone and the sugars were higher in the real stuff — now you’re avoiding in theory chemicals and other crap being added. we were surprised that the sugar levels were higher.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

January 25th, 2012
10:17 am

There is absolutely a cost component to this discussion — I can’t afford to buy organic everything so i try to get it when I can and of course moderation is the other component. Organic butter isn’t good for you all the time. it’s fine in moderation.

I think when comparing pizzas or frozen dinners — convenience foods — this app would be helpful to spot things — such as extra chemicals and weird stuff.

FCM

January 25th, 2012
10:20 am

Ok, Let me get this right….the idea is we do not have time to read a lable and think….so we have time to scan the UPC and wait for the phone to tell us…..

Keep moving along the chute there ……..uh……..people?

We have 2 advantages over most of the bipeds on earth…thumbs and the ability to think……Planet of the Apes here we come

Augusta

January 25th, 2012
10:22 am

I’m sorry, but if you need an app on your phone to learn how to eat healthy, you’ve got bigger problems.

When grocery shopping, shop the perimeter of the store, produce, bakery, meats, dairy, frozen foods, etc. STAY OUT OF THE AISLES…that’s where all the bad stuff is. Processed foods may be convenient but the are not so healthy.

Here’s an idea, READ THE LABELS!!!!!! Don’t buy anything in a can…..check the sodium content in canned veggies…Off the charts!!! Compare a can of corn to a bag of frozen corn…….

HB

January 25th, 2012
10:47 am

Yes, what Augusta said except that not all canned foods are bad. No-salt-added beans, tomatoes, tomato sauce/paste, tuna, etc. can be healthy, inexpensive timesavers.

Wayne

January 25th, 2012
10:59 am

I’d also like to add: rinse your canned vegetables. Don’t use the ‘water’ that is in the cans. Doesn’t rid all sodium but quite a bit. We use frozen, fresh and canned. Depends on what we’re doing, and how much time we have.

Augusta

January 25th, 2012
11:04 am

@HB – thank you, I neglected to think about the “sodium free” stuff…LOL

JOD

January 25th, 2012
11:35 am

@TWG – Yes, the sugar content is likely higher, but it is natural sugars as opposed to the chemical sugar in syrups such as Mrs. B: High fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, water, salt, cellulose gum, molasses, potassium sorbate (preservative), sodium hexametaphosphate, citric acid, caramel color, natural and artificial flavors.

jarvis

January 25th, 2012
1:00 pm

mystery poster

January 25th, 2012
1:31 pm

@Techmom
They have agave nectar at walmart.

mystery poster

January 25th, 2012
1:31 pm

@TWG
You are right about the cost of the real stuff being higher, I guess that was my point about using less of the real stuff.

Techmom

January 25th, 2012
1:59 pm

I’m with @mystery poster on the point that natural sugars are still better than processed crap even if the sugar content in the natural foods is higher. An average navel orange has 23g of sugar and a banana has 17g but I can assure you I would rather my kid eat an orange and a banana each day than drink a can of coke which has less sugar (39g).

(And yes, I just drank a coke and had the can handy for reference).

FCM

January 25th, 2012
2:59 pm

ok i will admit this….I hate real maple syrup…my kids love i
the Mrs B in the house is just a guilty pleasure for Mom. I love the artficial on a big stack of homemade pancakes…..I just don’t make pancakes except on a holiday weekend for brunch. The Oreo’s in the freezer are Mom’s too.

Cobb Mom

January 25th, 2012
3:58 pm

HB is correct about the foods he/she listed, great time savers, especially the canned tomatoes. I work 60 hours a week and cook all our meals, I don’t have time to make my own tomatoes and beans every time I need some. We use fresh when in season and frozen when not in season. I stock up on sales and use coupons every time I go to the store. When I am sick, like now, cooking is a pain because there aren’t any “convenience” foods in my house. If I want chicken noodle soup to help my cold I have to make it from scratch myself. The app could be useful for someone with health issues or dietary restraints.

Dennis

January 25th, 2012
4:56 pm

Just eat real food. Most of the food I eat don’t come with labels – because fresh fruits, vegetables and meats don’t have standard bar codes and nutrition labels.

Need a salad dressing? Find a recipe and make one. Learn to like extra virgin olive oil with a vinegar (I like balsamic, red wine, and cider depending on what’s in the salad). Or some fresh lemon juice. None of these options takes more than 10 minutes to make.

No one ate Mrs. Butterworth’s or Kraft dressings 70 years ago. People ate food they made at home.

In terms of the app – seems pretty conventional wisdom nutrition (based on USDA food pyramid/plate).

Processed food is a downhill slide.