Friday Feature: FoodEssentials

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Anton Xavier of FoodEssentials. Anton and his family are the creators of the FoodEssentails website, an online searchable database of actual food labels. Users type in a food category and "what you care about" to get a list of foods with nutrition, allergen and additive information.

For example, after the trouble with Sara Lee breads now containing dairy, I went to FoodEssentials and typed in "bread, dairy". A list of breads with information about whether or not they contained dairy, appeared on my monitor. Pretty cool, huh?

Check out this Q&A with Anton, and then try out their site:

Where did you get your interest in food and what people eat?

Several years ago, our father was attempting to implement a change in his diet and found it incredibly difficult to compare food labels in his local supermarket. The family became interested in this and started speaking to others.

Since then we’ve worked with a vast number of consumer advocacy groups, health professionals, government organizations, retailers and manufacturers in both Australia and the U.S and have gained an expert knowledge of the issues surrounding food labeling.

What is the FoodEssentials website and how can people best use it?

FoodEssentials is an online searchable database of actual food labels that can be used to compare foods for their allergen, additive, ingredient or nutrient properties. It's designed to help people easily find foods that best suit their specific dietary needs.

What is the goal of the site?

Our mission is to change the way the world chooses its food. We want to have a positive influence on the dietary habits of families and individuals by providing them with easy access to comparative information.

In addition, we hope that FoodEssentials can be a positive force in the evolution of food labeling by encouraging more responsible labeling by manufacturers.

How can food allergic consumers make the best use of FoodEssentials.com?

FoodEssentials provides food allergic consumers with a resource to quickly read and compare food labels.

We determine the allergen properties of a product by looking at each individual ingredient. We do not rely only on manufacturer claims. Questionable ingredients like "flavors" and "spices" are included in our "may contain" statements.

It will be possible in the near future to compare for any ingredient/allergen that you want.

What are your backgrounds?

My father and my youngest brother, Eddie and Dagan Xavier began working on the project first. Dagan had studied human movements and nutrition and had a good base knowledge.

We soon identified the importance of involving the expert knowledge of dietitians and consumer advocacy groups.

After the collection of data, Dagan administered the development of our ingredient database and over the last 3 years has developed an expert knowledge in this fairly specialized area. To this day every decision on an ingredient property is resourced by three credible resources.

I come from a marketing and management background and moved from Hong Kong to Australia to join the team early on. At around the same time we identified the US as being the most obvious place to launch the technology and began to assemble our team of professionals headed by Dheeraj Patri, based in Chicago.

What do you like to eat?

"I use FoodEssentials to educate myself about the ingredients in products that I regularly eat such as cereals, breads, snacks, soups & drinks. I have reduced the amount of preservatives and colors in my diet, cut sugar in my drinks, and I love my high-fiber oatmeal breakfasts to kick start my day.

I also love Asian food, particularly Cantonese, and anything that mum or Dagan cook.

Anton notes, "we hope that the food allergic community will actively engage in the process by providing us with feedback and suggestions of how they would like the tool to evolve. We are open for business and suggestions are not only welcome, but encouraged. Let us know what you think."

Thank you, Anton for you and your family's dedication to food labeling and food knowledge.

Check out FoodEssentials. Also, check out their blog filled with useful and useless (their words, not mine) trivia facts. It's some fun stuff!

As always, you can look to the Food Allergy Assistant for more information.
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