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FoodSwitch a hit at China’s Healthy Lifestyle conference

On 17-18 August, Nutrition and Lifestyle researchers from The George Institute China (GI China) attended the sixth China Healthy Lifestyle conference, hosted by Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC), to introduce the FoodSwitch mobile app to the audience. 

FoodSwitch, a free mobile application originally developed in Australia by The George Institute for Global Health, a not-for-profit medical research institute, has become very popular in several countries including Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India and United Kingdom.  It has helped hundreds of thousands of people to make better choices for a healthier diet.  It was introduced into China by the China Center for mobile Health Innovation (CCmHI), a section of GI China, whose mission is to support development of community healthcare and mobile health (mHealth) technologies in China.

FoodSwitch helps consumers obtain immediate, easy-to-understand nutritional information about packaged food products by scanning the barcode. Each product that you see in FoodSwitch has been rated for its amount of total fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt. The ‘traffic light’ ratings tell you if a product is low (green), medium (amber) or high (red) in these food components, based on widely accepted nutritional standards. Consumers can also turn to Health Star Rating (HSR) labels to have a glance how healthy the food item is. Additionally, when consumers scan a food product, he/she will also get a list of healthier choices that they can switch to. Healthier choices are first identified by comparing the overall nutritional value of foods based on an 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 content, and for some products, calcium.

To customize different consumers, there are three categories of FoodSwitch application, with FoodSwitch Classic aiming at general public; SaltSwitch aiming at the consumers who have high blood, heart disease or kidney disease; and EnergySwitch aiming at the consumers who have a strict request about food calorie intakes.

“The app combines the latest technology with high quality research,” Professor Craig Anderson, The Executive Director of The George Institute China said. 

“It is powered by an independent packaged food database of items found in China supermarkets. We now have more than 30,000 packaged food information in our cooperation with China CDC.”

Dr. Li Yuan, Head of Nutrition and Lifestyle program at GI China added, “Meanwhile, consumers are encouraged to help increase the number of the food products by sending photos of any scanned items not found in the database. By crowd-sourcing food data across tens of thousands of food items, researchers, policy makers and manufacturers will have the information necessary to make a difference to the food environment.” 

Participants showed a great interest in the FoodSwitch App. They were firmly confident that it was one of the best and most cost-effective ways to choose a healthier diet and prevent disease.