NHS app launches barcode scanner to help make healthier food choices

The new feature suggests alternatives with less saturated fat, sugar or salt as part of the Better Health campaign

Kate Ng
Monday 10 January 2022 09:45 GMT
The updated NHS Food Scanner app
The updated NHS Food Scanner app (DHSC)

An NHS app will enable families to make healthier food choices by scanning barcodes and suggesting more health-conscious alternatives.

The NHS Food Scanner App, which has been updated as part of the government’s Better Health campaign, will scan barcodes of selected shopping items and show alternatives with less saturated fat, sugar or salt.

The new feature comes as the government ramps up efforts to tackle Britain’s child obesity crisis, after the latest official data showed a record rise in obesity among 10 to 11-year-olds.

Statistics from the National Child Measurement Programme showed that one in four (approximately 28 per cent) children of reception school age are overweight or obese, with this figure rising to four in 10 (41 per cent) among 10 to 11-year-olds.

The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) also pointed towards a survey by Netmums that revealed more than half (58 per cent) of parents gave their children more sugary or fatty snacks during the pandemic compared to before.

Nearly two-thirds (64 per cent) of parents said they often worry about how healthy their children’s snacks really are, and nearly 90 per cent said they would benefit from an app that helps them make healthier choices.

The NHS Food Scanner app uses a “Good Choice” badge to show people what foods are in line with the government’s dietary recommendations for added sugar, saturated fat and salt.

The NHS Food Scanner app scans barcodes on food items and makes suggestions for healthier alternatives (Department for Health and Social Care)

Public health minister Maggie Throup said: “We know that 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. Finding ways to improve their health is one of the best resolutions any of us could make.

“By downloading the free NHS Food Scanner App, families can swap out foods from the weekly shop for healthier alternatives and avoid items high in salt, sugar and saturated fat.”

Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at DHSC, added: “With advertising promoting unhealthy foods to kids, it’s not surprising that parents say they’ve often found it hard to resist pestering from their children for more unhealthy snacks, and that is why the NHS Food Scanner App is a great tool to help families make quick and easy healthier swaps.”

Girls Aloud singer, Nadine Coyle, has backed the campaign alongside dietitian Dr Linia Patel. Coyle said she finds it “hard to say no to my kid’s demands”, but added: “I had no idea some foods were so high in sugar, saturated fat and salt – so it’s great that the app gives you alternatives.”

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