GoScan hopes to improve life for food allergy sufferers, those on diets

GoScan, a mobile phone app for those wanting quick, easy-to-understand, detailed information about the foods they’re eating has been launched.

Developed by GS1, the app provides the option of scanning a product’s barcode and – assuming the product is in GoScan’s database – retrieving the foodstuff's nutritional data. The database can also be sifted through manually by category.

“We’ve got approximately two-and-a-half thousand food and beverage manufacturing companies in the database,” Michael Wilcox, senior advisor of business development at GS1 Australia, told Food Magazine.

“We had resourced to contact about 150 to 300 of those in person, and to electronically contact another big chunk of them. We just didn’t have the resources to contact everyone.”

GoScan’s settings can be personalised by a user, allowing them to make purchases with updates about what they’re buying, designed to be of particular use to those on certain diets (dietetic, Halal, Kosher, organic, vegan, vegetarian, beef-free or pork-free) and with allergies (including gluten, milk and tree nut).

“We just want information put there, clearly, for us to see it,” explained Maria Said, CEO of Anaphylaxis Australia, who spoke at the app’s launch about the time demands of those with severe allergies – who are “spending their lives reading food labels” – and of the potentially fatal effects of a severe allergic reaction. Said has been involved in five coroners inquests due to allergies in the last seven years.

The creation of GoScan is one of the recommendation of a Senate inquiry into food processing held over last year. Chair of the inquiry, Tasmanian Liberal Richard Colbeck, said the scope of the app is broad and will increase.

"The new app creates the platform to provide much more information to consumers with more than 8000 products already listed,” said the Senator in a statement.

"Another powerful feature is the capacity for consumers to send requests to manufacturers for them to list their products on the app database, if they have not already done so, or for more detailed information. Customer feedback can directly drive the provision of information."

A need for the provision of information isn’t always an easily satisfied. Labels can only be take up so much “real estate” on packaging, and can only be so detailed.

Dr Joanna McMillian, Today show dietician and GoScan spokesperson at the launch, said that GoScan met an increasing desire for consumers, who “want to know for ourselves” what they are eating.   

As Said noted, those with allergy issues could potentially see quality-of-life improvements with accurate, quick nutritional information when shopping. Wilcox agreed, though food manufacturers could also benefit by getting on-board with GoScan.

“My mum is a coeliac, and she printed out a list 18 months ago and never left that list; she eats the same thing over and over again,” he said, making a point that a need to be careful with one’s diet could get boring.

“A lot of companies are realising that there’s actually saleability in making [diet-specific] products. They’re testing down to below 20 parts per million, testing each batch. They know there’s a market.”

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