Magical food safety app launched, sort of

My favorite food safety-related app is Poop the World — it’s a bit like playing Tony Hawk Pro Skater with, uh, poops. The opening screen says, “Get started! Track your bowel movements in real-time, share with friends, and strive for recognition in a fun and civilized manner!” They had me at bowel movements. Achievement levels like The Daily Quad (4 poops in a day) and Sir Deuce-a-lot (20 poops in a week) are available.

KRQE Albuquerque provides a teaser of a yet-to-be-released iPhone app from a New Mexico-based company, Food Sentry, that is supposed to help shoppers make decisions about food risks. When a specific food is entered, the soon-to-be-released app draws from the company’s double-secret food probation risk database and ranks the relative risk associated with food’s country of origin.

“A lot of things will show up at grocery store that are less than rigorously produced or regulated,” says John Cousins, CEO of Food Sentry.

Subscribers pay $19 a year for access to import and recall alerts, along with a food rating system.

“We have about twelve language skills on staff with our analysis team, and they can search every day to find out what food may be of risk coming into the country and we do the same analysis domestically too,” Cousins says.

Apparently this app is supposed to help a shopper make decisions. I don’t see the utility, especially without knowing how Food Sentry creates their ratings. I want to buy food that has been grown/processed/handled in the safest way – what country it originates in doesn’t matter nearly as much as whether the company who handled it knows what to do and actually does it. And has data to back it up.

High school math word problems often include the phrase, show your work. At least the teacher is able to judge whether the concept is understood, even if the final answer is wrong,

The answer is important – but how someone gets there really matters.

Same with food safety.

Food Sentry doesn’t show their work.

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About Ben Chapman

Dr. Ben Chapman is a professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University. As a teenager, a Saturday afternoon viewing of the classic cable movie, Outbreak, sparked his interest in pathogens and public health. With the goal of less foodborne illness, his group designs, implements, and evaluates food safety strategies, messages, and media from farm-to-fork. Through reality-based research, Chapman investigates behaviors and creates interventions aimed at amateur and professional food handlers, managers, and organizational decision-makers; the gate keepers of safe food. Ben co-hosts a biweekly podcast called Food Safety Talk and tries to further engage folks online through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and, maybe not surprisingly, Pinterest. Follow on Twitter @benjaminchapman.