Allergy sufferers could soon be able to use their iPhone to scan a food's barcode at the supermart to determine whether it's safe to eat.

The application, being developed by Deakin University (DU), not-for-profit organisation GS1 Australia and food major Nestle, will allow consumers to instantly access detailed product information including allergens such as wheat, egg, peanuts and shellfish directly from their iPhone.

Caroline Chan, a DU associate professor, said the application would help consumers make quick yet informed choices about their health.

“When you read a label the product information is often so small you can barely read it, nor understand it,” she said. “In Australia all packaged food products carry a barcode but its use is limited to inventory control and to settle purchases at the cash register.”

Chan, an information systems expert, said the barcoding system administered by GS1 Australia, had “unlimited potential” because it could be associated with other valuable product data such as serving size, nutrient information, and environmental related information, said a DU release.

“We wanted to really harness all this information on the bar-coding system and team it up with detailed product information provided by Nestle to give consumers a tool that had the potential to improve their health and raise public awareness,” she said.

Chan said initial testing of the application had been encouraging and the next step was to seek funding for a consumer trial. She was confident the application would be expanded to appeal to people on special diets or those with specific nutritional needs.

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