A new app aims to make food labeling easier for consumers to understand, especially when it comes to the nutritional and ethical ingredients in packaged foods and beverages.
OpenLabel is a crowdsourced labeling app that helps buyers understand not only what is in their food, but also how socially conscious these brands are.
The app uses smartphone cameras to scan barcodes. Users can also search for products on the app itself to see reviews from other consumers just like them and leave their own comments on products.
For example, someone who is concerned about how earth-friendly a company is, or where a corporation’s political contributions go, will be able to find out by using OpenLabel.
The app also has a social element. Users can follow trusted brands, organizations, and other individuals who will provide them with relevant information via the news feed feature.
The app is free for iOS and will be available for Android devices soon. The project is currently in beta mode.
While many food and beverage brands use custom product labeling to make these items seem more appealing to consumers, they are often limited by what they can include on the label regarding nutrition information.
In May 2014, the Food and Drug Administration proposed changes to food labels to make them easier to understand, especially where percent daily values were concerned. According to research from the NPD Group, only 48% of consumers regularly check nutrition labels as of 2013 — a record low.
And most people don’t know about the words and phrases that commonly appear on the labels for processed foods.
Dr. Phylis B. Canion, writing for the Victoria Advocate in Texas, explained to readers some of the more shocking additives in foods.
Gelatin, for example, is synthesized from collagen and comes from pig or other animal skin — which isn’t information that appears on food labels.
Other items go by multiple names: carmine, which is a red food coloring made from boiled cochineal bugs, is also called cochineal, cochineal extract, carmine, crimson lake, natural red 4, c.i.75470 or e120.
Apps like OpenLabel could make it easier for consumers to get information about their food while they do their shopping.