'One Sweet App' helps shoppers track unhealthy 'free' sugars
Published Saturday, November 14, 2015 7:45AM EST
Last Updated Sunday, November 15, 2015 10:02AM EST
A new app aims to “demystify” food labels by helping Canadians differentiate between natural sugars and unhealthy added sugars when shopping for groceries.
Available for iPhones and iPads, “One Sweet App” allows shoppers to scan bar codes to reveal how many teaspoons of “free” or additional sugars are in an item.
Free sugars and healthy natural sugars -- such as those occurring in fruits and vegetables -- are currently lumped together on Canadian food labels.
“What we’re doing with the app is getting information out to the public that they’re not getting on the nutrition facts label right now,” Natalie Bibeau, the app’s creator, told CTV News Channel on Friday.
Developed by a Montreal digital agency in conjunction with University of Toronto nutritionists, “One Sweet App” holds a database of common grocery store items, such as juices, cereals and desserts, and their free sugar contents. If a user scans an unlisted item, a researcher will calculate its free sugar content and add it to the database.
Earlier this year, The World Health Organization (WHO) released a report saying that free sugars should only make up about 10 per cent of an individual’s total daily energy intake.
“Free sugars provide us with little to no nutritional benefit, beside calories,” said University of Toronto researcher Jodi Bernstein, who worked on the app. “It’s very important that consumers have free sugars information available to them.”
The idea for an app came as Bibeau was working on “Sugar Coated,” a documentary that takes a harsh look at the sugar industry.
“We realized that we ourselves were confused about some of these things and likely we weren’t the only ones. So we started to look at what we could do on a practical level,” she said.
Bibeau says that the app has revealed several surprises.
“My favourite one is juice, because as a mother of two young children I would’ve thought that 100 per cent fruit juice was a healthy product. I’m not suggesting that it’s an unhealthy product, but I’m saying there’s quite a bit of free sugar in this product,” she said.
Bibeau says the main blame lies with the food industry, which she says should take more responsibility for “truth-telling” on packaging.
“We need to be a little bit more forthcoming about what’s inside the food.”