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There are several food applications available on the market for smartphone users. With the popularity of these applications (apps), it is almost impossible to tell which ones are worth downloading and which apps should be avoided. As with all apps there are pros and cons, limitations and areas for improvement.
The three food applications that are being reviewed include Fooducate, an app that rates food with letter grades, True Food, an app that identifies foods containing GMO’s, and Seafood Watch, an app that alerts consumers about seafood and its sustainability. These are three of the most popular apps currently on the market and all were included on the Top Ten List Best Food List by Rodale News.
The first app being reviewed is Fooducate. According to Rodale News (2011), Fooducate was voted the top Fitness and Health App of 2011 (Rodale News, 2011). This app was created by dietitians and a group of parents. Fooducate allows users to compare foods and determine its nutritional values based on predetermined criteria. The app assigns a grade to scanned foods in its database, based on different categories and specifications. The app grades the foods based on how healthy they are, and what kind of additives and other toxic ingredients they contain.
Fooducate believes this is important because consumers nowadays are very health conscious and are concerned about the high fructose, sugars and excess fats in their foods. Fooducate has vivid pictures and the screenshots are bright and colorful. The app features product details for each item, and a health tool for users wishing to track their health progress.
Some of the pros of Fooducate include its wide availability on smartphones, the diverse selection of food alternatives, the barcode scanner and how it allows its users to contribute to the database. Fooducate is available on smartphones such as the iPhone, iPad, and Android operating systems of 2.2 and higher. This is a pro because users do not have to switch phones or purchase additional apps or equipment for capability. Fooducate also provide alternative foods for dieters who may be seeking to reduce calories or other areas in their diets. Another feature which is very popular is the barcode scanner feature. The barcode scanner allows the user to quickly scan items and obtain dietary information about the item. One of the best features of this app however is the user’s ability to contribute to the inventory. If an item is not in the database, users can upload three pictures and submit the product to Fooducate. This feature allows the database to remain current, and to ensure that a variety of items are available to the consumer.
Some of the cons of this app include the limited features available in the free or “lite” version, and the cost of downloading the app. There are many features available on the Fooducate app, however if a user does not purchase the paid version, they will not have access to all of the features available. According to Lee (n.d.), this app includes information such as gluten and other food allergy filters and alternatives, as well as a way to adjust macronutrients (Lee, n.d.); these additional features however are only available to customers who upgrade to the paid version of the app. In addition, all features are not available on the Android version, whether the user upgrade to the paid version or not. Lee (n.d.) states that items such as the “food logging option” (Lee, n.d.) are coming soon to the Android users, but are only currently available for iPhone users. Another con of the Fooducate app can be the cost. This app can cost as much as four dollars to purchase the paid version, depending on the version that is downloaded. For an app that is quite expensive, considering there are other apps that can provide the same information for free, or for a fraction of the cost.
True Food App
The second app for review is the True Food App. This app is a product of the Center for Food Safety. They created this app to help consumers identify foods that contain Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s). This is a big issue on the market right now and many consumers want to know if they are eating foods containing these GMO’s. There are currently no labeling guidelines mandated by the FDA to identify these GMO foods, so the True Food app plans to fill this need in the market and provide this information for consumers. The True Food application uses a play on words in regards to the app name, True Food. It is stating that genetically modified food is not considered real or “true” food. According to Berger (n.d.) “as a result, the app serves not only as a shopping guide and teaching tool, but one that can be used for widespread advocacy and activism as well.” (Berger, n.d.). This app puts the consumer in control of their dietary decisions while advocating against GMO foods. True Food is a simple app to download, and it has vivid screenshots and pictures. Berger (n.d.) states that the True Food Shoppers Guide also equips consumers with valuable information regarding common GM ingredients, brands to look for, as well as to look out for (Berger, n.d.).
Some of the Pros of the True Food app are that it is free, it can be used an as educational tool, there are easy search categories and there is a tips section for customers. The True Food app is available on iPhones and Android devices. The creators of True Food are currently working on making the app compatible with Blackberry devices. The True Food app can be used as a shopping guide and also an education tool for consumers. The app educates the user on what is considered a GM food and alternatives to these food items. The app also allows the consumer to become an advocate for GMO free foods; and it contains a contact list of companies that do not use GMO ingredients in their foods. Another great feature of this app is that food choices are neatly categorized into meats, grains, fruit and vegetables and also meat alternatives. This makes it easy to search common foods and food groups. The app tells the consumer what they should and should eat, which could be seen as a pro or con depending on the consumer. The Four Simple Tips section is a customer favorite, and includes the four basic rules for avoiding GMO foods and what to look for in the ingredients and packaging. If a user follows the four rules, they will be able to avoid GMO’s and learn how to effectively substitute their food choices.
One of the cons of the True Food app is that the app could be bothersome for consumers not wanting to become an advocate for non GMO products. Berger (n.d.) explains that the app could be viewed as pushy and constantly asking consumers to voice their opinion on GM foods (Berger, n.d.), and for people not wanting to advocate for change, it could become a bit stressful. This is because the app solicits the consumer’s opinion of GMO frequently, and also has a section called “Join Us” where the consumer can become an advocate for change, and participate in campaigns to stop GMO foods from being produced and sold in the United States markets.
The Seafood Watch App is the final app for evaluation. This app was created by the Monterey Bay Aquarium (Aquarium) as an extension of its website. The Seafood Watch is a section of the Aquarium’s website of the same name that has been converted into a mobile application. The Seafood Watch app is a seafood guide that is very popular with the seafood community. This app gives the users a list of seafood that are endangered or near endangerment and sustainable seafood alternatives.
The app uses a rating system to score the seafood. Shreeves (2009), states that the ratings are easy to understand, which includes best choice, good alternative, or avoid” (Shreeves, 2009). These ratings represent the availability of the seafood and the outlook on the seafood. According to Shreeves (2009), “70 percent of the world’s fisheries are either in decline or are already fished at their capacity’ (Shreeves, 2009). In addition, continuing to consume these fish and other seafood will lead to the levels of seafood rapidly declining. If users wish to eat a certain fish, the app will give them the stats on that item, and recommend alternatives if the fish is in decline. The Seafood Watch app is the most beautiful of all the apps reviewed. The screenshots are vivid and look as if they are in high definition or 3D. Each image looks like an underwater oasis. The water is piercingly blue and the Seafood looks fresh and crisp. The app also provides a detailed summary of the item, a consumer note and ocean friendly alternatives.
Some of the pros includes that the app is free, there are no charges to update the content, seafood information is available according to locale and the seafood can be sorted and ranked according to the consumer. The app is free to download and free to update, which is popular with mobile app users. In addition, users do not need to worry about having the latest data, as there is an automatic update option available. Another pro is that information is available in several locations. According to Shreeves (2009) “regional guides highlight the seafood that's best in each area of the country” (Shreeves, 2009). The Seafood Watch app works with the cellphone’s Global Positioning System (GPS) to obtain the location. It then searches for seafood markets and creates a guide based on the location. Another popular option on the Seafood Watch app is that it allows the user to rank the seafood by different categories, or search directly by name. The food can also be searched alphabetically. This is beneficial because it saves the user the task of searching through multiple databases in order to find their item. Users are able to conduct a quick search using several search options.
The major con of the Seafood Watch app is the availability. The app is only available on the iPhone and to its users. That is a problem for users who have Android devices, and it could widely limit the downloading of the app. Although there are seafood guides available on the Aquarium’s website, they are not as interactive as the app made specifically for mobile devices.
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