Food campaigners have launched a free smartphone app to help consumers switch to healthier food and drink choices.

Available from today (13 February) FoodSwitch is the UK’s first app that allows consumers to switch to healthier products based on nutrition criteria.

Users can use the app to scan the bar codes of over 80,000 food or drink items, which provides them with instant, “traffic light colour-coded” nutritional information. This is provided with suggested similar, healthier products.

The app colour-codes each product by the content of its total fat, saturated fat (saturates), sugars and salt. Red, meaning high, will encourage the user to choose products with fewer red circles, while amber, signifying an ’okay’ choice, will suggest choices with green labels.

For products that are not listed in the database, shoppers are invited to “crowd source” the information by using the app to take photos of missing products, which will then be validated and added to the database for future use.

In a statement, campaigners behind the app, including Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH), said: “FoodSwitch gives customers the perfect opportunity to get to grips with what the labels mean, and to better understand what is in their food.”

Bruce Neal, The George Institute for Global Health and inventor, said: “FoodSwitch is all about putting power back into the hands of the community.  At the same time as recommending healthier alternatives to shoppers, the photographs of missing products sent in by users give us a complete picture of what is in the food supply. This is information that used to be the preserve of industry - we can now use it to hold big businesses directly accountable for what they are putting on the shelves.”

Katharine Jenner, nutritionist and campaign director of CASH and FoodSwitch UK, added: “FoodSwitch puts the shopper back in control. It is not about telling people to stop eating or avoid certain foods with red colours, but rather highlighting the differences in products.”

Other developers include the Medical Research Council Human Nutrition Research, The British Heart Foundation Health Promotion Research Group, and the Nuffield Department of Population Health and Nuffield Department of Primary Care, University of Oxford, and led by The George Institute for Global Health (TGI).

The app is available to download for free in the UK in iTunes and Google Play, and is compatible with Apple mobile devices that have a built-in camera, and Android phones running versions 2.3.x, or 4.0.x