Food scanning apps and Anaphylaxis – is it a safe combination?

Suffering from anaphylaxis is very tricky for sufferers and their families. They are always looking to find a better, easier, safer and smarter way to avoid allergens.

I want to focus on a special category of allergy apps that can scan a barcode on a food product and prompt the user if the product contains allergens the user is allergic to. (See* at bottom of this post)
Some examples of allergens are e.g. gluten, eggs, dairy, soy, peanuts, and many other ingredients.


Food scanning apps help a lot of people

The apps are designed to help people suffering from food allergies, food intolerance and Coeliac Disease when shopping for food.
These apps help a lot of people, no doubt about it.
It sounds like a respectable and perfect solution for sufferers, but when food can be life-threatening for people with anaphylaxis, I think the use must be carefully considered. It only takes a trace of an allergen to trigger anaphylaxis.


Why am I concerned about apps that scan food products?

Using these apps concerns me because errors in the food production can kill a person is suffering from anaphylaxis
As mentioned, it only takes small traces of an allergen, like nuts, eggs, dairy, peanuts for some sufferers to develop anaphylaxis.
There are also other threats when sufferers buy food; the packing and how the food is handled at the production line, which can also trigger anaphylaxis. I will write a blog post about this another time.
I am concerned that people suffering from anaphylaxis will blindly trust the results from the scanning apps, and sufferers might even eat more and quicker because the app indicates that the food is “safe”. If there has been an error in the food production that day, I am worried that someone will have life-threatening reactions.

Errors in the food production

Every day errors occur in the food industry and in labeling of food.
There are many services that send out daily warnings about food products that are recalled from stores because of errors in the production.


Some of the incidents/errors that can occur:

– Errors on the labels and barcodes
– That an ingredient has been wrongly added to the food, unintended
– Contamination from allergens in the food production


Impossible to prevent

Errors happen all the time, every day all over the world. It’s difficult, if not impossible to prevent.
By the time food products have been investigated during a random check and a warning sent out to customers, the products may already have been sold to people suffering from anaphylaxis.
Please be careful – allergies can kill.

 * How do these apps work?

Most scanning apps work as follows:
First, you tick off your allergies and allergens you react to in a personal profile, such as eggs, dairy, bananas, tree nuts.
You can then scan the barcode on food products in a supermarket and you will be notified – either that the food is ok for the sufferers to consume, or that you shouldn’t eat this product because it contains one or more of the allergens you have ticked off on your profile.
This blog post was written by Nina Aagaard