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App offers help with your food allergies

July 27, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
We all need food to survive, but for the 3 million kids in the U.S. living with food allergies, it can be their worst nightmare. Sometimes, the trickiest part of having an allergy is navigating the grocery store for foods deemed "safe," but as Health Specialist Denise Dador explains, help could be an app away.Rowan Mondel has a lot more to worry about than most other 6-year-olds.

"I can't eat any peanuts or peanut butter," he said.

His food allergy is so severe that someone eating a peanut butter sandwich across the room could trigger a reaction.

"If somebody wanted to touch me and they just ate a peanut butter sandwich or some peanuts, and they want to touch me, they'd have to wash their hands," Rowan said.

His mother said it's nerve wracking.

"It's like we're always on edge," she said.

For his mom, that means tediously scanning each label, checking each and every item at the grocery store.

"I'm always looking at labels," she said.

"Many people that have food allergies that have the anaphylactic level of reaction are in danger every day. Food in general is a scary source for families and children," said Valery Daley, a registered dietician.

Many foods contain allergens that are not so obvious. Those with peanut allergies should watch out for ingredients like lupin, arachide, goober peas and valencias. People with milk allergies need to avoid caseinate, lactalbumin and whey.

"Albumin is also an egg product, but most people won't know that albumin is egg," Daley said.

A new iPhone app is helping clear up the confusion. The phone's camera scans a barcode, and based on a profile you set, it tells you if that item is safe or not.

You can save "safe" foods to a favorites list, and then you can e-mail them to a family member who may need to do some grocery shopping for you.

The app also works for health conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure, as well as lifestyle preferences like vegetarianism.

There is currently no cure for food allergies. Up to 125,000 people visit the emergency room every year after having a reaction. The NutriSleuth app costs $4.99.


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