We love eating snacks wherever we go - it’s our favorite past time. However, we never realized what really went into our mouths. When we looked at the ingredient list on the back of a bag of potato chips, we discovered a daunting list of complex sounding chemicals such as maltodextrin or disodium inosinate. It turns out that according to the FDA, maltodextrin is a safe food additive that actually contributes to your carbohydrates count in terms of nutrition while disodium inosinate can cause adverse effects on those affected by gout or uric acid kidney stones. The average person would not know whether either was harmful, or beneficial to their body, and that's the point of clarity that inspired us to help others eat healthier and inform more people about what goes into their body. Recent data shows that with adults ages 20 years and over, 34.2 percent overweight, 33.8 percent are obese and 5.7 percent are extremely obese. Poor eating habits and lack of physical activity are the major contributing factors to overweight and obesity in the U.S. The World Health Organization stated that “at least 80 percent of all heart disease, stroke and Type 2 diabetes, and up to 40 percent of cancer could be prevented if people ate better.”
What it does
With a quick snap from your phone's camera, you can scan the barcode of the food you are eating and it will run through our data algorithm to let you know if the ingredients in the snack you are intaking raises any red flags. Our algorithm is able to search through the barcodes of 95% of the products available on the market today. Our algorithm cross-checks all the ingredients and sees if there are chemicals that are also in rat poison, for example. The app will let you know if it is safe to consume or if you should be aware of the effects of the chemicals inside.
How we built it
We began by researching confirmed/possible harmful products that are in foods and found that there was a great deal of ingredients that are commonly found in the FDA Nutrition Facts / Ingredients that are linked to negative health effects. We then discovered ways to pull ingredient lists from food products and decided to pull this data by scanning the Universal Product Code (UPC) in order to query online databases for the ingredient lists. Following this, we decided to develop an iOS app that can scan barcodes using the Google/Firebase ML Vision Kit to find Ingredient Lists. We use Postman to test/build GET requests in the REST API that provides us with a ingredient list for a given product. We then parse through the Ingredient List and match it to another online database of ingredients that are linked to harmful health effects. Our app is built so it is very simple to update the harmful ingredients database with new discoveries or online web scraping. We built the iOS app in Swift and using Sketch for App Design.
Challenges we ran into
We had a hard time configuring our algorithm to analyze all the harmful ingredients and making sure that that same algorithm can intake most food products on the market right now. We were able to solve this problem through several trustable API’s and a lot of time. If we had more time, we would have included a machine learning algorithm to produce approval ratings of the food companies.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We were able to come up with a fast and reliable algorithm that receives up to 99% accuracy on the harmful ingredient identification on food products worldwide.
What we learned
We learned about a wide variety of APIs and how to integrate them together for our custom sentiment analysis as well as nutritional facts and additives in many popular processed foods. Because the majority of our platform was written in Swift, we also learned more about mobile development through trial and error.
What's next for Healthy Eats
In the future, we hope to expand our database of additive ingredients. Any additions to the database that may come from new discoveries or deeper scraping of existing harmful additives would quickly be welcome in our app and would keep our app updated and effective for our users. We also believe that our app could introduce a new functionality that focuses on the harmful environmental effects of manufacturing/production. Another possible concern we want to address is that many of the manufacturers across the world may be linked to detrimental environmental impacts on the world through toxic emissions and similar processes. A potential solution we want to introduce will be an environmental warning similar to our current health warning that notifies users if the manufacturer of a product they scanned has any negative effects on the environment. It is not only important to be mindful of what we put into our own bodies, but also what we as a society put back into the earth as well.