While some folks would advise against buying any packaged food products with more than 5 ingredients, odds are you’ve picked up a box of something yummy only to get it home and realize it has peanuts, fish, or some other item that you either shouldn’t or can’t eat hidden away in a long list of ingredients.
The best way to avoid this problem is probably to read everything carefully while you’re in the grocery store aisle. But who has the time? Now there are a handful of new apps showing up in the iTunes App Store that can help shave some time off your label-reading routines… plus help you identify items with long and confusing chemical names.
As a disclaimer, I haven’t actually been able to test any of these apps myself, because I have an iPod touch instead of an iPhone — and all three apps listed below require a camera.
FoodEssentials Scanner is a tool that lets you scan the barcode of a product to view food labels on your phone. You can also see highlights for additives, allergens, or other nutrient or ingredient items. You can also scan multiple items and view them side to side to make a comparison.
FoodEssentials Scanner is available from the iTunes Store for $4.99.
If your problem isn’t allergens, but dietary restrictions, there’s another series of apps that may have you covered.
Vegetarian Scanner lets you point your iPhone camera at the list of ingredients. The app will attempt to auto-focus the camera (you’ll need an iPhone 3Gs to play), and compare the ingredients with a database to let you know if there are any animal-based products in the food.
At least that’s how it’s supposed to work in theory. The reviews on iTunes suggest that the scanner doesn’t work very well.
Vegetarian Scanner is available for $1.99 from the iTunes Store.
Halal Scanner is from the same developer as the Vegetarian Scanner. But instead of checking to see if there are any meat products in your food, it will check to see if the product is Halal, or permissible to eat under Islamic law.