Using a scanner app

Katarina Mollo MEd, RDN, LDN
What do you think of scanner apps that tell you if a food is gluten free?

Answer


I don’t really recommend relying solely on scanner apps as they may or may not have the most up-to-date information and also may give unclear answers, which can lead to either over-restricting foods or getting exposed to gluten.

I always tell my patients that they need to become their own “label scanners.” When you have celiac disease, the most important skill is to know how to read the label. The best way to check if a product is gluten free (GF) is to read the label carefully and contact the manufacturer directly if you are unsure.

You can read more here on how to read the label and how to contact the manufacturer:

https://nationalceliac.org/celiac-disease-questions/list-of-gf-foods/

That being said, scanner apps can be good in some situations. For instance, for those who do not need to know exactly how to read the label such as grandparents, friends and extended family etc. of someone with celiac disease. They may only need to know how to determine if a food is GF occasionally.

Here are some things to consider with a scanner app:

  • Do not allow the app to become a replacement for reading labels thoroughly.
  • The app may give an unclear answer whether the product is GF or not.
  • All food products may not be available in the app.
  • There may be a discrepancy between newer products and older products that are still on the shelf at the store if ingredients have changed.
  • Where is the information about the ingredients coming from?
  • How often is the app updated? The app may or may not update their database regularly.
  • How often do you update the app on your phone? You need to remember to update the app for the most current information.

In summary, although apps can be helpful in some situations, you should not rely solely on an app. It is vital to know how to read labels accurately, as well as to consider the limitations of any app. The most reliable information is usually the listing that is on the label of the actual product. If in doubt, always contact the manufacturer directly to inquire about GF status.

Published March 6, 2023.

Note: This information is provided by NCA and Katarina Mollo MEd, RDN, LDN, NCA's Director of Education. This information is meant for educational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for personalized medical advice or replace any medical advice provided directly to you by your health care provider. No liability is assumed by the NCA or Katarina Mollo, MEd, RDN, LDN by providing this information.

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