Government app will scan barcodes in push to get families buying healthier food

An updated government app will use bar codes to encourage families to switch to healthier foods as part of an intensified effort to tackle the UK’s child obesity crisis.

The new function announced on Monday as part of the Better Health campaign scans selected shopping items and suggests alternatives with less saturated fat, sugar or salt.

Families who use the NHS Food Scanner app will also see a “Good Choice” badge for items that could help improve their diet, the Department of Health and Social Affairs (DHSC) said.

It follows a record rise in obesity among 10-11 year olds, with statistics showing parents have been feeding their children more unhealthy snacks since the pandemic began.

Recent data suggests that one in four children of entrance school age is overweight or obese and that has increased to four in 10 in 6th grade, according to the DHSC.

A new survey, jointly conducted by the department and Netmums, a UK parenting website, suggests that nearly six in ten parents have been feeding their children more sugary or fatty foods since the coronavirus outbreak.

Girls Aloud singer Nadine Coyle, who ran the campaign with nutritionist Dr. Linia Patel said, “As a busy working mom, I find it difficult to say no to my kids’ demands and often give in to snack pressures – although I know it is not so good for them.

“I never would have thought that some foods contain so much sugar, saturated fat and salt – so it’s great that the app offers alternatives.”

Health Secretary Maggie Throup recognized the “pressures” facing families during the pandemic and said that eating habits had “changed dramatically” as a result.

“The New Year is a good time to make resolutions, not just for ourselves but also for our families. Finding ways to improve their health is one of the best resolutions any of us can make, ”she said.

Dr. Alison Tedstone, senior nutritionist at DHSC, said promoting unhealthy foods for children is contributing to the problem.

“It’s not surprising that parents say they have often found it difficult to resist their children’s harassment for unhealthy snacks, and so the NHS Food Scanner app is a great tool to help families find healthier barter deals quickly and easily to do, ”Dr Tedstone said.

“It is so important for children to reduce the amount of sugary, fatty, and salty foods to stay healthy and reduce the risk of health problems like diabetes and tooth decay.”

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