FAQs

How do I understand results for Traffic Light Labels?

FoodSwitch is powered by a database of New Zealand packaged foods. Each product has been rated for 4 food components (total fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt). The Traffic Light ratings tell you if a product is low (green), medium (amber), or high (red) in these food components, based on widely-accepted nutritional standards.

  • Red – indicates a less healthy choice; fine for an occasional treat, but think about how often you choose it and how much of it you eat.
  • Amber – this choice is OK, but going for choices labelled green is better.
  • Green – a healthier choice.

The ratings for red, amber and green for each nutrient are based on established standards for front-of-pack traffic light labelling

 

How are healthier choices identified?

The app identifies healthier choices by comparing the overall nutritional value of foods. The algorithm used is based on the nutrient profiling system, which was originally developed by Food Standards Australia New Zealand for the Health Star Rating system. It takes into account the different factors important to good nutrition, including fats, sugars, salt, energy, protein, dietary fibre, fruit vegetables nuts and legumes (FVNL) content, and (for some products) calcium.

 

Why is there a difference between the amount of salt displayed in FoodSwitch and the amount of sodium on the nutrition label of the packaging of a product?

FoodSwitch displays values for salt, while the nutrition label on the packaging of a product usually lists sodium. The difference is that salt is made up of sodium and chloride. To get the salt content of a product, you would need to multiply the amount of sodium by 2.5. FoodSwitch has already done this calculation for you.

 

Why do some healthier choices have the same traffic light profile as the product I have scanned?

It is possible that the app could recommend healthier choices with the same or a very similar traffic light profile.  Rest assured – the products recommended are healthier choices than the product you have scanned. The recommended healthier choices have a better overall FSANZ nutrient profiling score (you can see the amounts of each nutrient by tapping on the recommended healthier choice). However, this might not be reflected in the traffic light colours because the FSANZ nutrient profiling criteria takes into account a larger range of factors important to general health (such as fibre, fruit and vegetable content, and protein).

 

Where does the nutritional information come from?

The National Institute for Health Innovation has developed the database of nutritional information over the last 3 years, by collecting information from the nutrition panels of packaged foods in New Zealand. FoodSwitch users also help by taking photos of new products and sending them in.

FoodSwitch is powered by a large, independent packaged food products database. However, because there are always new products coming on the market and some products are only available in certain areas, not all food products available in New Zealand are in the database yet. This is why we encourage FoodSwitch users to help us add to the database. 

 

Why does the app not include information about colours / preservatives / additives / allergens?

At this stage FoodSwitch does not include information on colours, preservatives, additives, or allergens. However we are collecting additional ingredient information and future versions of the app will aim to include even more functionality.

Currently FoodSwitch already has additional SaltSwitch and GlutenSwitch features to help you make healthier food choices.

 

How can you be sure the information on the food label is correct?

We trust manufacturers to put the correct information on label. If something unusual is noticed please use the “Report Issue” function in the app to send us information.

 

Are all the products in my local grocery store in the database?

The database that powers FoodSwitch contained information on more than 8,000 packaged food products when launched in August 2013, and in 2016 this had increased to almost 30,000.   But we anticipate it will continue to grow quickly as there are always new products coming on the market and there will be some products that are only available in certain locations so they may not be in the FoodSwitch database yet.

 

What if the product I scan isn’t in the database?

Food manufacturers are continuously adding new product ranges to supermarket shelves. If you scan a product that isn’t in the database, you’ll be invited to help us by taking three photos – one of the front of the package, one of the nutrition information panel, and one of the ingredients list. The app will then automatically email these pictures to us so the item can be validated and added to the database.

Please note that with users contributing many photos to the database every day, it can take some time for the product to appear in the FoodSwitch app. We also need to complete a series of quality control checks before listing products on the app. 

 

Why is the product listed, but the manufacturer says it is deleted?

Every day there are new products appearing on supermarket shelves, and products being removed from the market. It is almost impossible to keep up with a rapidly changing food supply. There may be times when the app has listed an alternate product that is no longer available. We ask consumers and manufacturers to “Help us” by using the “Report Issue” function in the app that allows information about an item to be sent, informing us it has been deleted or changed.

 

Why is the data out of date?

Same answer as above.

 

Why are the products listed in the Healthier Choices not available in this store?

Product availability across every supermarket in New Zealand is not possible. Instead the app lists a number of healthier choices available in New Zealand for the product scanned. If a healthier product listed is not available then your scanned item is the healthiest available at that location.

 

How can we be sure FoodSwitch information is correct?

The database that powers FoodSwitch is updated regularly by NIHI team of researchers along with the help of users like you. You’ll receive alerts from time to time when a new version of the app becomes available or the database is updated.

The database is updated regularly by The George Institute for Global Health’s research team along with the help of FoodSwitch users who can send us feedback about products through the app, on the website, or by email at foodswitchenquiries@nihi.auckland.ac.nz. You’ll receive alerts from time to time when the database is updated and/or a new version of the app becomes available.

 

Do you have any relationship with food manufacturers? Will they provide any funding to you so that their product can be recommended?

We have no commercial relationship with any food manufacturers that would affect information presented. Products are recommended solely on the basis of their healthiness.

 

How can you convince the users the results are neutral and objective?

Foods are rated according to algorithms that are applied at a regulatory level in countries. As an independent medical research institute we are able to act free of any commercial interests.

 

Can the app also provide healthier choices for bulk food/street food?

The app only works for packaged foods.

 

Can the app provide healthier choices for online shopping?

The app functionality could easily be included in an online shopping site and we are open to talk to any retailer interested.

 

Why are you using UK based traffic light standards? How do you think these are applicable for New Zealand consumers?

The health issues caused by packaged foods are basically the same irrespective of whether you are from New Zealand, China, UK, Australia, India or any other country.  Excess quantities of salt, sugar, harmful fat and calories are a problem for everyone.  We are using UK based traffic light guidelines because they have undergone a lot of development.

 

Is the ‘Healthier Choice’ good for all customers, including male/female, young/senior and people who are suffering from diseases like kidney disease, diabetes etc.?

The healthier choices we suggest are the products that are on average the healthiest. People with particular diseases like high blood pressure or coeliac disease may need more specific advice can use the add ons provided particularly patient groups.

 

How is FoodSwitch Australia different to New Zealand?

FoodSwitch New Zealand is different from the Australian version in the following aspects: 1) only Traffic Light mode will be available for New Zealand, the Health Star Rating mode is an addition available in the Australian version; and 2) the relaunch launch of FoodSwitch New Zealand only has three versions/filters: FoodSwitch, SaltSwitch and GlutenSwitch - more filters are available in the Australian version.

 

How often is the information reviewed and updated?

We have a team working on reviewing and updating the information on a daily basis. FoodSwitch will prompt when an update is available for download. As there are new products being submitted daily, it will take time to build the database.

 

How does the ‘List’ function work in the app?

To create a new list:

  • Go to the ‘Lists’ page
  • Enter the name of a new list in the text box that says ‘Create a new list’
  • Tap on ‘Done’

To add a product to a list:

  • Swipe to the right or left on the product details to expand the information area
  • Tap on ‘Add to list’ to go to the ‘Lists’ page
  • Add the product to an existing list by tapping on the list.

To remove a product from a list:

  • Tap the ‘Edit’ button in the navigation bar on the ‘Lists’ screen
  • Tap on the red circle that appears to the left of the product you wish to remove
  • Tap on the red ‘Delete’ button that appears on the right.

To remove a list:

  • Go to the ‘Lists’ page
  • Tap the ‘Edit’ button in the navigation bar on the Lists screen
  • Tap on the red circle that appears to the left of the list you wish to remove
  • Tap on the red ‘Delete’ button that appears on the right.

 

How do I create and delete lists? How can I add and remove healthier choices to lists?

When a healthier option is displayed, tap on the product details to expand the information area. This will display the product’s nutritional values. To the right, a '+' symbol should appear. Tap on the "+" symbol and it will take you to the Lists page. You will then have the option of adding it to a current list by simply tapping on that list; or you can enter the name of a new list, tap on it and the item selected will be automatically added to that list.

If you’re using an Apple mobile device, to remove an item from a list simply tap the ‘edit’ button in the top left hand corner of the screen. A red circle will appear to the left of each product on the list. Tap on the circle next to the product you wish to remove and a red ‘Delete’ button will appear on the right. To remove a list, go to the Lists page and tap the 'edit' button in the top left hand corner of the screen. A red circle will appear to the left of each list. Tap on the red circle next to the list you wish to delete and a red ‘Delete’ button will appear on the right to enable you to delete the list.

If you’re using an Android device, to delete an item on a list, tap and hold on an item. A check box will appear to the left of each item on the list. Tap on the item you wish to edit to highlight the check mark. You can then delete the item by tapping on the bin button in the top left hand corner of the screen. To delete a list go to the Lists tab and tap and hold an existing list title. A check box will appear to the left of each list. Tap on the list you wish to edit to highlight the check mark. You can delete the list by tapping on the bin button in the top left hand corner of the screen.

 

Why should I be concerned about choosing healthy food?

Many everyday packaged foods can be high in salt, fat (including saturated fat) and sugar. They can also be high in energy (kilojoules), thanks to growing portion sizes. All these factors can contribute to health problems like obesity, hypertension (high blood pressure), type 2 diabetes and high blood cholesterol. In turn, these can lead to a greater risk of heart attack, stroke and some cancers.

Making even small changes to our diets, like consuming less salt, sugar, fat (especially saturated fat) and energy (kilojoules), can prevent many of these health problems.

 

Why use Traffic Light Labels?

Research shows many people find colour-coded labelling easier to understand than other systems. The Traffic Light Labels provide nutritional information based on 100g of a product. This helps consumers compare products quickly and easily.