My husband has been trying to eat a lot less gluten lately, and it’s made cooking meals a little challenging. Since I’ve never had to consider gluten before, I’m not sure which foods have it and which don’t. Yes, I know that bread has gluten, but other products I’m not so sure of.
When I read about Fooducate’s Allergy & Gluten Free Scanner app ($4.99), I thought I’d give it a try to see how helpful it might be. The app allows you to scan the barcode of a food with your smartphone and it will alert you about the presence of allergens you've listed. It looks for the following: gluten, lactose, milk, soy, egg, peanut, tree nut, fish or shellfish. I only was interested in gluten, but I also set the app for egg and peanut just to see what it came up with.
I went around the kitchen and scanned in the bar codes of different packages. The Trader Joe’s Quick Cooking Steel Cut Oats I had for breakfast was first. The app let me know that the oats don’t contain gluten (or eggs or peanuts). A closer look at the container let me know that although the oats don’t contain gluten, this particular brand is made in a facility that processes wheat, milk, eggs, tree nuts, and soy, although they “segregate ingredients to avoid cross contact with allergens.” The app wasn’t able to indicate that for the Trader Joe’s Oats.
However, it seemed to pick up the possible allergens in the Wegman’s Red Quinoa I scanned. Although quinoa does not contain gluten and it’s the only ingredient listed on the box, the app says that this brand “may contain gluten and eggs.” A quick look at the box shows that egg, milk, soy and wheat could be possible allergens. Since quinoa doesn’t naturally contain any of those, it must be because this brand is processed in a factory that also processes these ingredients.
For someone who needs to be super careful about staying away from any allergens, this app can be helpful. For someone like me, who only needs to worry about someone with a mild gluten sensitivity, it’s probably more than I need. The allergy warning labels that packaged foods carry under the ingredients list is enough for me to go by.
I can imagine that someone who gets severely ill or who gets life-threatening symptoms from allergens in foods would get an extra measure of protection with this app. The app makes it perfectly clear when you first open it that it’s not to take the place of any medical advice from a doctor, but it can help people become informed.
Blisstree points out that this app could be helpful for people trying to go vegetarian because of hidden fish and shellfish in packaged foods. That’s something I hadn’t thought of. There are probably other specific diets that this app could be useful in helping someone stick to. Can you think of others?
Related gluten-free stories on MNN: I'm eating gluten-free, but I'm still having allergy symptoms?