New NHS food scanner app will allow parents to scan barcodes on their children’s snacks for healthier alternatives
- NHS food scanner app allows users to swap snacks for lower sugar and fat ones
- A London family were recommended thin and crispy pizza instead of deep dish
- They were also recommended fruity loaf instead of cake bar in the app test
An NHS app will allow parents to scan barcodes on their children’s snacks and suggest healthier options.
The NHS Food Scanner app, which previously just showed the nutritional content of products, has been updated allowing users to swap snacks for ones that are lower in sugar, salt and saturated fat.
Tested with one family in London, the application recommended a thin and crispy pizza instead of a deep-dish, stuffed-crust one, sugar-free lemonade to replace the normal version and a lighter pasta sauce replacement.
Instead of a chocolate cake bar, a fruity loaf came up as an alternative, with a lower-sugar yoghurt recommended instead of one with balls of chocolate included.
The five replacement products were found to reduce the sugar intake of seven-year-old Gloria Denovagiene and brother Arlo, four, by the equivalent of 40 sugar cubes a week. Their salt intake was cut by the equivalent of 15 sachets and the saturated fat in their diet by 80 grams.
The NHS Food Scanner app, which previously just showed the nutritional content of products, has been updated allowing users to swap snacks for ones that are lower in sugar, salt and saturated fat (stock image)
The NHS hopes the app, which is part of the NHS’s new Better Health campaign and promoted by former Girls Aloud singer Nadine Coyle, will help to tackle a record rise in child obesity since the pandemic began.
Figures for 2019-20 show 25 per cent of children aged ten and 11 in England are obese – up from just over 18 per cent a decade earlier. And a survey of 2,030 parents, carried out by website Netmums last month, found 58 per cent gave their children more sugary or fatty snacks than before the pandemic.
Also, nearly two-thirds said they often worried about the healthiness of their children’s snacks.
Launching the app, public health minister Maggie Throup said: ‘We know families have felt a lot of pressure throughout the pandemic which has drastically changed habits and routines.
‘The new year is a good time for making resolutions, not just for ourselves but for our families.’
When a snack is scanned into the app, it provides information on the amount of salt, sugar and saturated fat that product contains. For each, a traffic light rating is given similar to those on food packaging, with green indicating a product is low in content while amber means it contains a medium amount, and red means the content is high.
If a snack gets a green rating, parents and children are presented with the encouraging message: ‘Good choice. Nice one. This is a healthier snack choice.’
However, health experts say the app may only appeal to parents who are already trying to give their children healthier snacks – limiting its effectiveness.
Graham MacGregor, professor of cardiovascular medicine at Queen Mary University of London, said: ‘To really create change, and tackle the obesity epidemic across the country, it would be better for the Government to take action to get the food industry to reformulate unhealthy food products and cut their sugar, salt and saturated fat content.’
Launching the app, public health minister Maggie Throup (pictured) said: ‘We know families have felt a lot of pressure throughout the pandemic which has drastically changed habits and routines. ‘The new year is a good time for making resolutions, not just for ourselves but for our families’