iPhone App of the Week: Fooducate 1.12

January 24, 2011 Updated: October 1, 2015

A HEALTHIER CHOICE: A screen-shot of the Fooducate app running on an iPhone. The app allows users to scan the barcodes of food items, and will display health information about its ingredients. (Tan Truong/The Epoch Times)
A HEALTHIER CHOICE: A screen-shot of the Fooducate app running on an iPhone. The app allows users to scan the barcodes of food items, and will display health information about its ingredients. (Tan Truong/The Epoch Times)
Fooducate is an app that could prove useful while grocery shopping. As its name suggests, it educates you on the food products you find in a typical grocery store in the United States.

The purpose of the app is to educate the consumer on the unhealthy contents of processed, prepared, or packaged foods. Although the ingredients of foods and the nutritional contents are listed clearly on the packaging, most people are not informed enough to know what substances in a food are unhealthy and whether the amounts are excessive.

Fooducate identifies foods through the barcodes on their packaging. Fortunately, barcode recognition happens very quickly. As long as the iPhone camera is able to maintain the right aperture and focus, the recognition happens instantly.

A network connection is also required since the lookup of more than 160,000 items is done on Fooducate’s servers and not in the app itself. So if you don’t have a data plan and you’re not near a free Wi-Fi source, you’ll have to do your scanning at home. For those with iOS devices that don’t have cameras, Fooducate is still usable, although the recognition process will be slower because you have to enter the barcode numbers manually.

Information comes back on an item in about the same time it takes to scan it. What you get is not going to be an in-depth analysis, but rather very general information to allow you to make a quick decision about whether to buy a product.

Each product gets a letter grade with “A” being the highest and “D” being the lowest. Calories per serving is also displayed prominently, and there are alerts to highlight any good or bad points about a product. Fooducate will let you know if there is an excessive amount of substances such as sodium, sugars, saturated fats, or various chemicals. In the product details you can see a more in-depth explanation as to why these ingredients can be harmful to your health.

Equally useful are its suggestions for alternative products, and it also summarizes why those are good alternatives. Refreshingly, Fooducate is not associated with any food manufacturers, allowing them to be objective and effective consumer advocates.

Fooducate does have one glaring weakness, as their database is far from complete. There are still many products that have yet to be analyzed or even recognized, many of which are foreign-made foods. To make up for this, Foodcuate does take requests for analyses. If the app runs into a barcode that it does not recognize, it asks you if you want to take photos for a submission to the Fooducate reviewers.

Despite the lack of comprehensiveness in its catalog, the sheer number of items that it does catalog means that you will be able to find information on many products that you buy, and you may be surprised by what the app tells you about those products.

Fooducate is a free download.