Apps for healthy and conscious shopping

Earlier this month I wrote about the 2016 update on Pesticides in Produce  from the Environmental Working Group (EWG).  Just a few days later the new EWG Healthy Living app was launched.  In this post I’ll introduce this and other similar apps that help you make better choices as consumers.

Apps for health 2

The EWG are an excellent source of information if you want to be a conscious consumer with it comes to healthy choices in food, skin and personal care, and other purchases related to the environment and health.  Their Skin Deep Guide to Cosmetics is a now a well-developed tool that rate thousands of products on the market.  The Sunscreen Guide is also a good source when deciding on the right sunscreen, and is particularly useful when selecting sunscreens for children.  You can find out more about their consumer guides here.

The EWG Healthy Living App

The Healthy Living app combines data from the Food Scores and Skin Deep guides, to give you a comprehensive tool for assessing the food and personal care products you choose to buy at the supermarket or online. It rates about 120,000 products according to the website. The Food Scores guide covers about 80,000 of those products and rates them on a scale of 1 (best score) to 10 (worst score) based on nutrition, ingredient concerns (the presence of contaminates, pesticides, antibiotics and similar), and the ‘best estimate’ on food processing.

The app is very easy to use, although the scan function didn’t recognize quite a few products on the shelves or in my pantry, many more items were found through the browse function.

It might not be the most convenient tool to use as you are flying through the supermarket grabbing ingredients for dinner or while shopping with kids in tow, but it may be useful if you shop for online for some of your food.

Other apps that can help with making conscious choices.

Seafood sourcing

If the seafood you buy is sourced in Australia then consider the Sustainable Seafood Guide by the Australian Marine Conservation Society.  This uses a “better”, “less” or “no” rating for guidance.

If your seafood comes from New Zealand you can choose the best seafood options at the Best Fish Guide.

If you still prefer to source your fish protein from Hong Kong, then please download the WWF Sustainable Seafood Guide app.

Remember to say no to unsustainably sourced seafood to keep our oceans healthy.

Good Guide

Similar to the EWG Healthy Living app, the Good Guide app rates products in the categories of food, household, personal care and babies & kids.  It uses a combined rating that the website says takes into account the health, environment and societal impact of the product. The health categories include – ingredients, certifications and health impact; environment includes – resource use, environmental impact and transparency; society includes – social practices in relation to consumer, workers and community. Not having analyzed their methodology I won’t comment as to the accuracy but the rating system might be a bit confusing as they work the opposite way, 1 being worst and 10 being best.

Chemicals in products

Food numbers and chemical ingredients are confusing and often misleading.  For instance did you know that “ascorbic acid (man-made vitamin C) is usually synthesized from the fermentation of GM corn, while artificial vitamin E is commonly derived from petrol.” This from food writer and investigative journalist Joanna Blythman in her article Inside the food industry: the surprising truth about what you eat.

The Chemical Maze app can help you work out what the E numbers, additives and mysterious ingredients really are

Social Conscience

There are also apps that allow you to make consumer choices based on your social conscience.

If you feel strongly about the organizations you’d rather not support, or business owners whose pocket’s you’d rather not be lining, then Buycott may be the app for you.  In the US you might want to avoid supporting the political power of the Koch brothers, or Trump businesses.  Perhaps your ethical focus is on animal welfare, or you’d like to support fair trade as much as possible with your purchases.  Either way the Buycott app lets you shop with your values in mind.

The more Australian centric Shop Ethical! App, assesses the environmental and social record of organizations behind common brands. This app drills down to reveal the ultimate ownership of the brands and products in its database and analyses organizations on social, environmental, animal welfare and ethical business related criteria.  The app also links to the EWG’s Skin Deep score for certain products. I think the corporate ownership information is very useful. Searching for a brand of pet food I found that the parent company (a US based organization) uses microplastics in other products and brands in its organization chart. I’ll know not to buy products from that group in the future.

Overall a very interesting and useful app if you want to know more about the companies that really own the brands you love, or hate. But standing in a supermarket aisle may not be the best time to do this research.

You might use this as a starting point!

brand ownership image

Although all of these apps are useful the best advice when it comes to food choices is to buy natural foods, avoid processed or overly processed foods, and buy organic whenever possible and affordable.

If you know of other apps that might be of interest please share them here.

Images: pexels-photo by Jordan McQueen

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