Safe Eating App 2
Food allergies affect about 26 million, or 10%, of the overall US population; even with varying levels of severity, allergies continue to reduce many citizens’ quality of life. Many allergies are prevalent since birth, but certain allergies, like Alpha-Gal Syndrome, can be acquired at any point in life. Alpha-Gal Syndrome in particular is spread through Lone-Star Tick bites. This syndrome is a mammalian meat allergy involving an IgE antibody response to galactose-α-1,3-galactose. This sugar, known as alpha-gal, is found in all mammals except monkeys, apes, and humans. Alpha-Gal syndrome is not well-known; in fact, the majority of our group had never heard of this syndrome until we started working with our clients. Food labels are required, by law, to list all ingredients and allergens involved in the production of the food item. While all products abide by this law, there are instances in which secondary ingredients are used to refine the main ingredients, and these secondary ingredients are not listed or mentioned. This lack of information can prove to be deadly to people with allergies, especially those affected by Alpha-Gal Syndrome. For example, sugar starts off with a brown tinge. In order to remove the brown tinge, to achieve the look of white sugar, the sugar can be refined with crushed cattle bones, which can possibly trigger an allergic reaction for those affected by Alpha-Gal Syndrome. Companies are not required to disclose this information, since "Crushed Cattle Bones" are not a main ingredient of white sugar, but they can be life-threatening. To tackle this issue, we created an IOS application that gathers allergy information from the user. With this information stored, the user can scan the barcode of a product they are interested in purchasing, and the app will return a signal whether the food is safe, dangerous, or “better to be cautious” based on the user’s inputted allergies. Additionally, there is a feature for the user to scan products for dependents with allergies, or young/older users that cannot use the application. To gather information about the ingredients used in different foods, we are using an open-source database that allows users to add products and their ingredients so the database is always up to date. The database comes in many different formats like JSON and CSV, so we can use different methods to parse the data to retrieve information as fast as possible. The previous iteration of this project focused only on the food available at Virginia Tech Dining Halls, but to make it more scalable, our clients approved our idea of scanning grocery store food, since it is their most troublesome area. The final deliverables include a fully functional IOS application (along with the application’s code, executable file, and a video demonstration), a final report, and a presentation to showcase our application, as well as the thought process to the class and our clients, Deborah Nichols and Candice Matthis.