Health services are increasingly becoming more technologically based these days, with apps like Allergeneat exercising a vital preventive role in preserving our health and wellbeing.
The app, which was downloaded over 2,000 times during its first month on the market, creates a specific profile for each user, who can identify the substances they are allergic to.
Next, all they need to do is scan the barcode of any food product on the shelf of a supermarket and obtain information regarding potentially harmful ingredients.
The app, created by Quim Sánchez and José María Falcón, detects the 14 foods which must be declared by manufacturers, according to law. Sánchez stated: “In Spain, there are 12 million people with allergies and food intolerances and numbers are continuing to grow.”
Sánchez’ own life partner had various intolerances, so the talented telecommunications engineer dreamed up a way to be of help. “My partner and I found that we were wasting considerable time shopping because we had to read the ingredients list of each and every product carefully. A simple barcode reader makes the whole process quicker and simpler.”
Allergeneat’s database contains some 100,000 items at the moment, though every month, around 9,000 new products are added. This makes it the hottest app to own, since competitors contain only a third of these products.
“The algorithm we use enables us to process information through three different filters in 0.1 seconds, which lends the app a close-to 100% success rate. Users do not have the ability to modify data; what’s more, you don’t need 3G, 4G or WiFi to use the app.” The app is completely free and can be obtained on Google Play and App Store.
Which Allergens Need to be Declared by Law?
European Law deems the following items to be under the duty of obligatory declaration:
Cereals with gluten, including wheat, rye, oats, barley or varieties and derived products, (except for a small list of items which includes glucose syrups made from wheat, including dextrose).
Crustaceans and products made with these animals.
Fish (except a small list which includes fish gelatin, used in vitamins or carotenoid solutions).
Soy (except for a small list which includes totally refined soy oil and sesame seed oil).
Milk and its derivatives (including lactose).
Nuts (including walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, pistachios, macadamia, and more.
Celery and derived products.
Mustard and derived products.
Sulphur dioxide and sulphites in specific concentrations.
Lupins (called altramuces in Spain).
What is Causing the Rise in Allergies?
Grab your EpiPen and scan everything… across the globe, allergy rates are rising, with the reasons still a subject of heated debate. Most allergies are caused by a small number of culprits, including nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish, and eggs.
Current theories explaining the phenomenon include:
The Hygiene Hypothesis: Some scientists argue that our obsession with cleanliness is wreaking havoc on our immune system, causing the body to identify specific foods as invading germs.
Add to this our ever increasing dependency on antibiotics and anti-acid medication (which alters our digestive tract) and we could have a recipe for disaster.
Climate Change: Rising temperatures are linked to respiratory problems and allergies; as the spring season grows longer, many of us become victims to the effect of pollen for many more months of the year. Sadly, the debate on the effect of human activities on global warming continues to be a subject of debate.
Gene Expression: Studies on changes in gene function in relation to environmental influences are showing how and why allergies and other immune diseases exist. These changes, called ‘epigenetic mutation’ affect adults as well as their children and future generations.
It all begins in the womb: for instance, babies with allergic mothers are born with less T cells, which makes them more likely to develop food allergies and atopic dermatitis in their first year of life.
If you suspect your child may be allergic, ask their pediatrician about having an allergy test; many possible allergies can be tested in one session, and you will also be given useful advice about vital lifestyle changes and tech tools that can help minimise the effects of allergies.
Words Marisa Cutillas