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GS1 Bar Codes Used to Fight Obesity

Supplier News
article image Using GS1 Bar Codes to Check Nutritional Data of Products

A report released by GS1 Australia and Victoria University explains how mobile phone technology is being combined with GS1 Barcodes to fight obesity successfully.  

GS1 Australia Chief Information Officer Steven Pereira and Victoria University Senior Lecturer Dr Michael Mathai presented the outcome of their Nutritional Health Research Pilot Case Study at a GS1 Global MobileCom conference in Singapore recently.  

The report is the culmination of an 8-week trial conducted by Victoria University honours student Carla Battaglia at the University’s School of Biomedical and Health Sciences.  

The trial involved overweight participants using mobile phones to scan GS1 bar codes on breads, breakfast cereals and biscuits, and receiving a ‘traffic-light’ rating of the sodium and saturated fat content of each of the products, based on recommended serving values from the National Heart Foundation.  

The ratings delivered by the mobile phone application were based on data extracted from GS1 Australia’s electronic product catalogue, the GS1net data pool and supplemented with data gathered from products at four major supermarkets in Melbourne’s west.  

Project participants with a Body Mass Index of more than 25 were invited to take part in a 4-week observational stage in which they completed weekly 3-day food diaries followed by a trial stage where they scanned products, purchased products and retained their shopping dockets.  

A database was compiled with participating consumers’ personalised characteristics and combined product data of breads, breakfast cereals as well as biscuit products including their description, serving sizes, and sodium and saturated fat content.  

When fed into a web application written by another Victoria University honours student, Vladislav Vintsarevich, it produced a successful result and was displayed via a mobile phone.  

Schepisi Communications, a Telstra Dealer provided 20 Nokia 6210 phones for the project.  

GS1 France contributed its Codeonline mobile phone application that identifies a product by capturing a picture of the bar code and routing the call out to the product manufacturer’s website.  

For the purpose of the research, the application developer, QSN Technology, a Swiss company made a slight modification and routed the call via an Australian third-party web service provided by Insqribe to the Victoria University’s computer server where the database was hosted.  

Key findings of the research project:

  • 40 per cent of participants changed their purchase decisions based on the information provided
  • While purchasing habits were not altered for a majority of participants, due in part to their continued purchase for household members, the application made them more aware of their diet
  • The study established that while technology could make information accessible, education and motivational tools are needed to encourage participants to change their overall purchasing and eating habits
  • More than 90 per cent of participants indicated that such a system would be useful to their needs if more products were included

Pereira said an industry set of extended packaging information needed to be determined, supported by a process to automatically populate nutritional data in GS1net.  

He added that going forward the logical direction would be to expand the database to include a majority of products within the Australian supermarket range.    

An industry initiative would be needed to urge suppliers and manufacturers who were not yet using GS1net to contact GS1 Australia and ensure that their data is included in any future extended packaging.

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