July 28, 2021

There’s an App for That

A “Focus on Food Safety” webinar last week attended by Food Poisoning Bulletin brought up one of the most powerful consumer tools to track farm-to-fork food safety: the mobile phone app. Apps, or applications, are application software loaded onto mobile phones that instantly provide services on many different topics.

Farm to fork traceability is one of the intentions of the Food Safety Modernization Act. The FDA is charged with mitigating food safety problems and foodborne illness outbreaks, but those tasks are threatened with potential budget cuts. The consumer, unfortunately, bears a lot of the responsibility to stay safe. And mobile apps can help.

You’re no doubt familiar with the most popular apps for games, such as Angry Birds. But apps can also help you find a restaurant or grocery store and, more importantly, find out if anything at that restaurant or store might make you sick. Apps can alert you to food that is spoiling in your fridge, give you food safety tips, and tell you about FDA and USDA recalls.

The food safety apps listed below are for Android, iPhone, and Windows phone. Nokia offers food apps too, but they’re focused on weight loss and recipes.

Food safety apps for consumers include:

  • Government Accountability Office (free) This app gives you the latest reports, Congressional testimonies, and legal decisions from the government watchdog, including information about food and food safety.
  • GoodGuide (free) offers science-based health ratings for 120,000 products. You set the criteria you care about and this iPhone and Android app will give the product a pass or fail grade.
  • Dirty Dozen (free) is an iPhone app that lists the fruits and vegetables that are the most (and least) contaminated with pesticides and herbicides. Also available on Android.
  • Food and Symptom Log ($3.99) for iPhone is an interesting app that keeps a log of the foods you eat and symptoms you experience after eating it. Since one of the big issues in tracking foodborne illness outbreaks is that people can’t remember what they ate before they got sick, this app could be a valuable tool for consumers and epidemiologists.
  • Is My Food Safe? (free) for iPhone. Get answers to your food safety questions with this fun app. Includes: Is it done yet?; Time to toss? and Ask an Expert.

These apps aren’t a substitute for safe food handling rules and their inclusion here isn’t an endorsement. These apps can’t warn you if the food you’ve just been served in a restaurant is safe, or if the person who just handled your food washed his hands before serving you. But in this fast-moving world of ours, using every tool at your disposal can help keep you and your family as safe as possible.

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