Buying food is a daily chore for most of us. Walking down the aisles or perusing the local markets can seem a bit intimidating with all the options and varieties available but sourcing those foods that are safe, healthy and leave little environmental impact on our ecosystem can be downright intimidating.
With the growing movement to eat healthy, locally grown and sustainably raised food, it only makes sense that there are a growing number of apps available to help the everyday consumer make informed purchasing decisions wherever they are.
Was it made in a South East Asia sweat shop? Did they feed it hormones to fatten up to market weight more quickly? Is it safe to eat even after I wash it? These are questions we ask ourselves on a weekly basis and if we don’t we should be. Being a responsible citizen of our planet takes a lot of work, tenacity and most of all a daily awareness that we have the ability to make informed decisions that will lessen our footprint.
That being said, here is my list of the Five Beast Apps available to help us eat healthily while limiting our pressure on our finite natural resources.
1) True Food: available for both iPhone and Android users, this app developed with the Centre for Food Safety, helps shoppers identify genetically modified (GM) foods that are seldom labeled as such. This app not only informs you of products that have been GM, but also identifies outlets that sell GM foods, brands and meats that have been grown with rgBH growth hormones.
2) Seafood Watch: from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, a world leader in promoting sustainably raised seafood products. Aquaculture is one of the fastest growing food sectors in the world and the cost on our oceans is significant. This app is a consumer’s guide to sustainable seafood products that are listed as either Best Choices (farm raised oysters, clams and scallops), Good Alternatives (King Crab, pacific Cod, Sablefish) and Avoid (Chilean Sea bass, Blue Marlin, shark). A Canadian version from the Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise program will be released shortly so keep an eye out for it. Available for the iPhone.
3) Label Lookup: from the Non-GMO Project. Genetically modified organisms are found today in a plethora of products and although banned in some countries around the world yet in North America they continue to be allowed in many products. This app identifies products, from food to cleaning products to personal care products that are listed in Non-GMO Project’s Product Verification Program. Available for iPhone and iPod Touches.
4) What’s On My Food: recently released by the Pesticide Action Network, lists pesticides that are found on food products. This comprehensive app is easy to use and alphabetically lists virtually every food product available at your supermarket and what kind of pesticide is residing on it. It then takes it a step further by detailing how much of a certain pesticide is in or on that food product, what that pesticide’s dangers are and then gives a comparison to its organic equivalent. Available for iPhone.
5) The GoodGuide app is quite a treat. Developed by a team of environmental scientists and technologists, this app lets you scan barcodes off products as you shop to determine their social, environmental and health attributes for over 70,000 products and it’s adding thousands of products every month. From soaps to cereals, this app helps consumers shop in a more environmentally and socially conscious way by providing information such as tracking product life cycles from resource extraction into manufacturing, through consumer use to disposal. It also advises whether there are any threatening chemicals used in its production. This app aims to arm the consumer with the necessary knowledge to be a more responsible consumer where it counts most, at the point of purchase. Available for iPhone.
While there are many tools to help us through this myriad of options, keep in mind that yes, there are a lot of cheap and useless apps out there so do your research first. I highly suggest reading the user comments for some realistic feedback, I find these quite useful. It seems, that depending on what our specific interest is, that there is or shortly will be an app that caters to our needs so stay tuned in and perhaps we can turn our purchasing power into real change.