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New food app to help improving food choices

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New Delhi: A revolutionary app developed in Australia that provides consumers with easy-to-understand information about packing food nutrition — telling them the salt, fat and sugar content of a product by scanning the barcode — and suggesting healthier alternatives has been launched in India.

The FoodSwitch app, developed by the Sydney-based George Institute for Global Health, provides consumers with the knowledge and support needed for better eating habits across India and is aimed at reducing the burden of diet-related diseases and promoting a healthier population, its developers say.

The application, which was funded in part through an Australia-India Council grant uses the established traffic light labelling system — red (high), amber (OK) and green (good) for evaluating products.

Bruce Neal, senior director at The George Institute for Global Health, said at the launch of the app at the Australian High Commissioner’s residence here on Wednesday evening that FoodSwitch makes the sometimes complicated information on nutrition panels immediately understandable.

“FoodSwitch helps consumers evaluate the nutritional content of packaged foods and, when they can be found, suggests better options,” he said.

Neal, who led the team developing the application, said diets high in salt, sugar and fat were now causing major health problems in India.

“This app will be a great help to those trying to stay healthy. We know that it is really hard for people to grasp the meaning of the nutrition panels on foods,” he said.

Australian High Commissioner Patrick Suckling welcomed the practical engagement between the Australian and Indian health sectors.

“Australia has been engaging with India’s health sector for decades across a wide range of activities in R&D, skills training, commercial engagement and on a government-to-government level. This FoodSwitch Application highlights the importance of proactive and creative approaches to preventative health measures and demonstrates Australian innovation and commitment to health outcomes” he said.

Available for iOS and Android consumers free of cost, FoodSwitch is backed by a database of about 10,000 packaged foods compiled in collaboration with the Centre for Chronic Disease Control in India.

If a scanned product is not in the database, consumers can use the phone camera to send in photos so that it can be added.

“In Australia we receive about 150,000 photos each year which allow us to keep the database completely up-to-date,” Neal said.

“This element of consumer participation has been really exciting for us. This will be the largest country that we have launched in and there are unique challenges with the size and scale of the country, as well as the number of foods and grocery stores.

“Consumer participation will be important so that more people can benefit and improve their health.”

The data behind the FoodSwitch app also supports programmes by the food industry and government designed to improve the healthiness of packaged food.

Vivekanand Jha, executive director of the George Institute for Global Health in India, said he hoped Indian consumers would use FoodSwitch when they did their shopping.

“But we also want to work with the Indian food industry and government to improve the quality of the food supply. If we can make even small changes to the average levels of salt, sugar and harmful fat in the food supply, this could go a long way in combating India’s epidemic of non-communicable diseases,” he said.

Already launched in Australia, Britain, New Zealand and South Africa, the app has had more than 600,000 downloads worldwide.

The George Institute is a not-for-profit organisation conducting scientific research in public health and medical sciences.

Affiliated with the University of Sydney, the Institute today also has offices in India, Britain and China and is also affiliated with the University of Hyderabad, the Peking University Health Science Centre and the University of Oxford.

(IANS)

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India 2nd in Government Requests for Users’ Data on Facebook

In the second half of 2018, Facebook identified 53 disruptions of Facebook services in nine countries, compared to 48 disruptions in eight nations in the first half of 2018

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FILE - A man poses for a photo in front of a computer showing Facebook ad preferences in San Francisco, California, March 26, 2018. VOA

The Indian government requested Facebook to provide data for 20,805 users (including 861 emergency requests) — second only to the US government — in the July-December 2018 period and the social networking giant provided some data in 53 per cent of the cases.

During the second half of 2018, the volume of content restrictions based on local law increased globally by 135 per cent — from 15,337 to 35,972.

“This increase was primarily driven by 16,600 items we restricted in India based on a Delhi High Court order regarding claims made about PepsiCo products,” said Facebook in its latest Transparency Report for the second half of 2018.

The US government asked for users’ data in 41,336 cases wherein Facebook provided some information in 88 per cent of the cases.

“In the second half of 2018, government requests for user data increased globally by seven per cent from 103,815 to 110,634,” Chris Sonderby, Vice President and Deputy General Counsel at Facebook, said in a statement late Thursday.

“Of the total volume, the US continues to submit the highest number of requests, followed by India, the UK, Germany and France,” he added.

In a separate post, Facebook said it removed more than three billion fake accounts in the October 2018-March 2019 period, saying that about 5 per cent of its monthly active users were fake.

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FILE – The Facebook app icon is shown on an iPhone in New York. VOA

Facebook disabled 1.2 billion accounts in Q4 2018 and 2.19 billion in Q1 2019.

“For fake accounts, the amount of accounts we took action on increased due to automated attacks by bad actors who attempt to create large volumes of accounts at one time,” Guy Rosen, Facebook’s vice president for integrity, said in a blog post.

According to Rosen, for every 10,000 times people who view content on Facebook, 11 to 14 views contained content that violate the platform’s adult nudity and sexual activity policy.

In the second half of 2018, Facebook identified 53 disruptions of Facebook services in nine countries, compared to 48 disruptions in eight nations in the first half of 2018.

Also Read: OPPO, Samsung, Apple Most Preferred Brands by Gen Z

“This half, India accounted for 85 per cent of total new global disruptions,” the company informed.

In this period, on Facebook and Instagram, the company took down 2,595,410 pieces of content based on 511,706 copyright reports; 215,877 pieces of content based on 81,243 trademark reports; and 781,875 pieces of content based on 62,829 counterfeit reports.

“In Q1 2019, we took action on about 900,000 pieces of drug sale content, of which 83.3 per cent we detected pro-actively. In the same period, we took action on about 670,000 pieces of firearm sale content, of which 69.9 per cent we detected pro-actively,” added Rosen. (IANS)