Can an iPhone App Change the Way We Eat?

The glow-in-the-dark yogurt sent Hemi Weingarten over the edge. His wife came home from the store one day with it, intending to feed it to their children, and Weingarten, a tech exec, decided that "the food industry could do a lot better."

So he developed a tool that he thinks will keep the makers of neon yogurts and over-sweetened fruit substitutes accountable. The iPhone app Fooducate helps decode the mysterious language of food labels and, Weingarten hopes, will help parents choose nutritious foods for their kids.

The app is free, and easy to use: you scan a barcode into your iPhone and get ratings, nutritional reviews, and suggested alternatives. If an item doesn’t exist in their database of over 200,000 food products, Fooducate makes it easy enough for users to photograph and submit the label and nutritional information to be indexed and rated.

After a weekend of rummaging through my cupboard, iPhone in hand, I learned that my cereals rated fairly well, but that my Luna Bar got a C and my Mojo Bar a C-. The Kit Kat Bar that mysteriously fell into my shopping bag scored a sad, yet not unexpected, D.

The goal is that Fooducate will not only educate consumers but will force the FDA and food producers to stop making American kids into chubby chemical receptacles. “I’m hoping that someday Fruits Loops are made with real fruit,” said Weingarten.