”Food shopping has been a total nightmare for years”, said Fiona Unwin, mother of two children with severe food allergies, one to nuts and the other to chicken.” It took ages to check all the labels when supermarket shopping. If my daughter Rosalind ate nuts, she would be sick for days with dreadful stomach pains. Yet however careful I was, I still made mistakes and missed the information on the label. I have 4 children altogether and shopping was always very fraught anyway! Studying labels before buying products was difficult and often I just ended up throwing food away, having bought something inappropriate in the rush. My son Alastair has a much rarer allergy to chicken and turkey. His mouth and throat would swell up and he would vomit continuously in great pain. I tried so hard to avoid it in his food, but chicken is hidden in all sorts of products – soups contain chicken stock, ham sometimes contains turkey and so on. I used to pray for a magic wand that I could wave over products and they could tell me instantly if they were safe or not.”
Well, the good news is that the ‘magic wand’ has been created and it is called FOODWIZ! Tesco and Asda have joined forces and, for the first time, have shared their food and drink product databases with a third party, the FoodWiz team. These databases have been downloaded onto the smartphones of allergy sufferers, who then input their own food requirements and they can then go shopping with confidence.
They simply scan the barcode of any of 100,000 products stored on their phones via the FoodWiz app and get instant feedback as to whether it is safe for them to eat or not.100 new products are added to the database every day. It even works in the corner shop, as all branded products are on the database.
Children as young as 6 are using the app. Shopping is fun, as they zap the barcodes on the ready meals or branded goods and all the time they are learning to take responsibility for their own food choices.” The children love it,” says Fiona. “One lady in my village has 2 little girls with coeliac disease. She downloaded the app for both of then the day it came out and they have never looked back. Shopping is now a learning experience. You can’t expect children to read labels to find out if a product is safe for them to eat, but the girls love using their phones to check the barcodes. It really is a magic wand.”
Children are encouraged to take their phones when visiting friends or grandparents to double check packets and labels. This is very reassuring for their parents.” It is so awful being ‘ different’ when you are a child” comments Fiona. “But the app is cool. Everyone wants to have a go. Children are teaching older people how to use it. It’s fantastic.”The average shopping time for mothers shopping for families with allergies has been cut by 45 minutes and users are daring to try new products instead of sticking to the ‘ safe ones they always buy’.
The FoodWiz is a gadget in an age of gadgets. James Lay, the founder of Foodwiz, hopes that the NHS will take up the product. A GP would ‘prescribe’ the app for an allergy sufferer in the first instance, instead of resorting straight to medication and intervention. As all allergy doctors know, the only ‘real’ treatment for food allergies is AVOIDANCE. At last, a totally new idea has come to market, making avoidance easier and fun.
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