I thought of this idea a couple of weeks ago when I was looking up an online pdf to see what I can eat at "Arby's" (because I have a sever dairy and fish allergy.) Sometimes the ingredients are hard to find, and once you are able to find the pdf file you have to read through it to know what you can or cannot eat.
That is why we created this web application - to help people with food allergies find what they can eat at major chain restaurants quickly with the touch of a few buttons.
In this application users are asked two things: what allergies do they have, and what major chain restaurant they want to eat at. They can then press "What Can I Eat?!" and then they are brought to results page that displays all of the food items they are able to eat at that given chain restaurant.
Some of the key features we use in this website is an advanced search, which allows people to specify their food allergy more specifically. For example, I myself cannot eat "caseinate" which is milk derivative, but I am able to consume lactose and whey (both of which are milk proteins.) If I selected "dairy" in the general search, the website would tell me I cannot have certain items because of lactose or whey, even though I would actually be able to consume them.
This advanced search is very exhaustive and covers all of the major 8 food allergies. We soon aim to implement support for vegetarian and vegan users as well.
Where we are looking to head after MHacks is to expand this website to accommodate more major chain restaurants, add some more optimization on the back-end of the website, and then possibly construct an API for food ingredients at chain restaurants.
The thought (and its still in its very early stages) about constructing an API was that our group looked for an API that contained the actual ingredients in the food items at major chain restaurants, but we couldn't find any. Without the actual ingredient lists, an "advanced search" would not be able to be implemented and that is a huge part of what makes our website appealing to those with allergies. Another quick example is that if someone was allergic to walnuts and not almonds but we didn't have specific ingredient lists for the food items, it would have an allergen alert for "tree nuts" but the user wouldn't know whether he could eat it or not because it is too vague.
*Below are some screenshots of our websites' UI - it is definitely in its alpha release so some styles will be changed.
*Major update - a representative from Mashery came and talked to us about their API's and introduced us to the "FoodEssentials" API so now there is a lot of room for growth to expand this idea to supermarkets and other food items outside of the chain restaurants idea.