Just had an idea, and sent a quick email inquiry to Health Canada to see if someone else is already doing it.
In Canada all processed foods must by law have a nutrition label on it detailing specifics about the food inside the package. It’s very helpful for anyone counting calories or trying to maintain healthy eating habits. it’s quite shocking what these labels reveal sometimes. For example I’ve been enjoying a “Natural Trail Mix” from Costco recently – no sugar added, no salt, yogurt chips for sweetness. it looked quite healthy. Then I saw the calorie count in a serving, and the serving size. This product looks quite similar – looks quite healthy right? Then you see the nutrition label.
120 calories per ounce? PER OUNCE? Wow! Not a healthy snack after all. My trail mix was similar and I’ve since stopped using it for a snack and have reserved it for trails, where I need a light food that provides a lot of calories.
But I digress.
I sent the email below to Health Canada because I see a real opportunity here. I’m not sure the opportunity is for the Government of Canada, nor is it necessarily for the food manufacturers (though I think someone smarter than I could figure out how to market this idea successfully). At the very least I see an opportunity for someone – an entrepreneur who wants to somehow entrepren (??? see, I don’t know what to do with this idea).
Subject: Electronic communication of nutrition label information
I was wondering if there are any initiatives underway to provide a standard means of electronically communicating the nutrition information for foods. There are a large number of web sites that help people track their nutrition information, and in order to do so there is usually the need to manually copy into the website the info from the label.
This seems to be an opportunity to me, as I know that some computer somewhere has already collected that food’s info – why do I have to input it again? Why do thousands of people have to input it manually?
I’d love to see a service provided by food manufacturers where their website not only provides the info to web browsers, but also provides an electronic interface for software. This interface could answer queries from software or other websites to retrieve the nutrition information automatically, meaning we people don’t need to manually enter the data anymore.
We have the standard info and label (thanks very much). The next step seems to me to be sharing that info across the Internet. That’s the whole point of electronic communication – efficient sharing of data.
Are you aware of any such initiatives?
I think something similar exists for communicating recipes in software (Meal-Master is a standard format I think?).
Just for the sake of being thorough, I sent a copy and inquiry to my Member of Parliament too, to see if he feels there’s something here that Health Canada can get behind to help Canadian consumers navigate the nutrition information online.