I found myself today searching for apps that might help me with my food intolerances. I have intolerances to even minute quantities of egg and dairy, and this makes everything food-related a bit more of a challenge, from my husband shopping for food for me to eating out, and even sometimes trying to figure out why my stomach feels so awful. Here were some of the better apps I found, and what I think of them:
Your Food Intolerance [iOS]
My Rating: 4/5
This app was designed to help people identify food intolerances or food allergies with minor symptoms. It operates through a detailed program of food avoidance and symptom tracking. There are two main categories of identification. Food group identification is recommended first, which should help identify which food group is causing issues, after which one can then run the individual food program to figure out which food in that group is a problem. Each day, the app tells you what to avoid for the day. Before each meal, you tell the app what you are about to eat and what symptoms you have experienced since the last meal. Programs of identification run from 1-2 weeks all the way up to 2-3 months, depending on the number of intolerances/allergens, and how quickly they’re identified. The interface is simple and straightforward, with most of the work being done on back end programming rather than by allowing changes to user preferences.
I did not personally try this app, as the program is long-term and I am comfortable with the knowledge of my current intolerances, but I can see myself using this in the future if I develop symptoms and don’t know the cause. From what I could see, the very simple interface works as claimed, but further trial would be required to test the effectiveness of the identification protocols.
Second Waiter [iOS]
My Rating: 2/5
This app is a US-based chain restaurant allergy guide. Popular US chain restaurants are listed, along with the ability to find the closest location and its hours. Links to each restaurant’s menu allow you to select items for allergy information, but this information is limited. For example, Applebees’ Parmesan Steak listed garlic as a possible allergen, but not dairy. Notes at the bottom of most of the pages explains that nutritional information is not available. Fast food chains like McDonalds seem to have slightly more accurate information than sit down restaurants like Applebees.
Overall, I wouldn’t trust this app. Too much allergy information is missing to make it reliable for people whose health rests on accuracy of information. It might be helpful for some of the fast food chains though.
My Rating: 2/5
This app claims to be a way to check for allergens in US food products while perusing the grocery store. The user sets their allergens and then scans the bar code of the product. A hazard symbol appears if the product contains any of the user-selected allergens, though it is still up to the user to confirm their allergens in the ingredient list. Products can also be searched manually, though that function seems hit or miss. Recipes are also available within the app.
Overall, I found the interface jumpy, glitchy, and slow, though the information contained within seemed good. I was unable to effectively check the quality of their database, as I have mostly Canadian groceries in my home. If you can manage to overlook the app’s disfunction, it may be useful. It was last updated in 2015, so that may be a sign that it’s not well-supported anymore.
SafeEats : Allergen Alert [iOS]
My Rating: 3/5
A US grocery scanning app, this program is comprised of an allergen list where you can select your allergies and a scanner. That’s pretty much it. It recognizes US groceries only, and has a simple but easy to use interface. When you scan an item, the product name and a list of flags triggered by your allergies will come up. Tapping the product name brings up a list of ingredients. The search is not an advanced one, as cocoa butter will flag a dairy and lactose allergy, but you can confirm on the ingredient list. The app does not allow for saving products as favourites. There is a scan history, but you cannot view the information you were originally given in that search without re-scanning the item.
Canadians can give this app a miss. Americans might enjoy it provided they want an app that does nothing but a basic scan for allergens.
Food Allergy Snapper [iOS]
My Rating: 3.5/5
This app is designed to help people quickly check any product ingredient labels for allergens. Because the user manually enters every single name variant for every single allergen to create a personalized allergen list, it can be time-consuming to set up. This set up work is rewarded later, as the user simply takes a picture of the ingredient list of any product in any language (should be the same language the user-entered ingredients). The app scans the picture and all text is automatically digitized. Extra nutrition information and other product details are often digitized as well, and the user has the option to edit the digitized text before checking for allergens, but it usually isn’t necessary. The excess text usually shouldn’t affect whether an ingredient is recognized in the product. The user then touches the Check Ingredients button, and the app issues an Alert, naming the flagged ingredient(s), or No Potential Allergen notice. Other than the setup, the biggest downsides are that the user interface is not very refined in look and sometimes ingredients are falsely flagged, such as “cocoa butter” coming up as “butter.” Luckily, you can quickly fact check the app to make sure the identification is valid using the additional alert information.
At first, I thought I wasn’t going to like this one, but once I realized that this app has the potential to check any product with an ingredient list and carry around a full list of food and chemical allergens, my tune quickly changed. Yes, it’s a bit ugly, but it does its job well, and would be great on a family member’s phone if they’re unsure of what to look for while grocery shopping.
My Rating: 5/5
This is a UK food allergen app. The user interface is clean, albeit a bit confusing at times, and the developers really seem to understand the intricacies of various food allergies and intolerances, as you can set different kinds of allergies within a category, for example, options ranging from whole egg to “may contain egg,” under the egg category. Not only can you set allergies and intolerances in a wide variety of foods, ranging from the top allergens to sweeteners, legumes, and so much more, you can also choose specific diets that you want to follow. You can create a separate profile for everyone in your family, if desired, so that any searches or scans will tell you who in your family can eat each item. To use, scan an item while shopping. I was unable to test this feature fully because I didn’t have any UK grocery products in my house, but it seems quite well-built. You can also search for a type of item. Searching “cookies” brought up about 15 different types of cookies that were safe for me to eat.
Seeing this app and how easy it would make food shopping, I wish I lived in the UK just so I could use it. I wasn’t able to test the scan feature, and I hope that the database lives up to the excellent work that’s gone into the rest of the app, but from what I’ve seen, this app is a true winner.
My Rating: 3/5
Tied directly into TripAdvisor, this app features restaurants from all around the world, listing their contact information, location, price range, and food type. Though you can enter your allergy information into the app, it doesn’t appear to contain any information about restaurant menus, making it somewhat useless as a “safe restaurant” finder. One interesting feature that did please me is that there is an entire list, translatable to almost any language, of phrases to use to inform restaurant personnel about your specific food allergies. The interface is clear and easy to use.
As a worldwide restaurant guide for people with no food allergies, it’s probably pretty good, provided they have data plans on their cell phones. If I travelled to non-English-speaking countries a lot, I would consider using this app. As it is, I find more allergy information from independent websites reviewing restaurants than I will find on this app, so for that reason it’s not for me.
Have you tried any of these apps? What did you think? Comment below.
Come back Monday for a review of chemical allergy apps.