vegansaurus!

10/08/2010

iPhone app review: VegScan makes late night junk food shopping easier  »

If you’ve been vegan for longer than a year or two, you probably already have your own tricks for picking up packaged food and deciding if it’s vegan in two seconds or less. My first trick is to look for cholesterol. If there’s more than 0 mg, it’s automatically not vegan (it doesn’t go both ways; plenty of non-vegan food has no cholesterol). Then I look for the allergens in bold at the end: “Contains milk, eggs.” Finally, I scan the ingredients from the middle out, where the whey is usually hidden. After being vegan for long enough, you want this go as quickly as possible. You want your Oreos and you want them now.

But, what if it’s 2 a.m. and you’re plastered? Nothing makes sense, labels are blurry, and you mostly don’t care if those Cocoa Rice Krispies are fortified with D3 or not, because who can remember if D2 or D3 is the wrong one, anyway? Really what you want is a simple yes or no. Enter theĀ VegScan iPhone app: stop thinking, start scanning.

To test this outĀ under real world conditions, I decided to get drunk and go for a Safeway midnight junk food run. Because do we really need VegScan at Rainbow or Whole Foods? Probably not. I have two beers, two shots of whiskey, and two shots of vodka, and I’m ready for Safeway. For me, that’s plenty, but not too much; I still need to be able to operate my phone/not lose or drop it.

Using VegScan is dead simple. After you sign up, you can start scanning right away. All you do is hold the camera over the barcode, and press the button. Done. The app immediately tells you if the product is vegan or not.

Or at least it would, if they had enough data. VegScan is still pretty new, and all the data is crowdsourced, meaning that if a product isn’t in there, it’s up to you to type it in and mark if it’s vegan or not. To their credit, they make a game out of it with badges and points (I’m already ranked #11!) but if you’re not the kind of person who enjoys sorting your bookshelves by color on your days off, this could annoy the hell out of you.

Of all the products I scanned, only one matched (Top Ramen Oriental Flavor). Others that didn’t match: Thomas’s English Muffins, Yellow Tail Merlot and Chardonnay, Munchos, PrimoTaglio Provolone Cheese, Chex Mix Original, Doritos Salsa Verde, Guinness, Tostitos Hint of Lime, Baken-ets Pork Rinds, Skippy SuperChunk, bulk Safeway bread rolls, Silk Original Flavor, Hostess Donettes (powdered). So, if you ever scan any of those, you’ll see my opinion of whether or not they’re vegan, and you can vote on whether or not I was lying.*

If you’re a seasoned vegan with the Accidentally Vegan list practically memorized, VegScan probably won’t be too useful. But if you’re obsessed with organizing data—and you know who you are—hurry up and start scanning. Future drunk vegans need you.

*I wasn’t.

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