The idea of an app on your phone to definitely tell you whether a product is safe or not is very attractive. The list of ingredients that may contain gluten can seem overwhelming and frustrating. However, while we tested these apps, we found inaccurate information that could be very dangerous if someone did not know what they were looking for.
Spoonful was the app with the largest database, the most accurate information, and the best user experience. This is the best app for scanning barcodes to check for hidden gluten in products of the 6 I tested. However, it is important to know what ingredients include gluten and read the product’s labels on the shelf.
I took the top 6 apps that scan barcodes for gluten and scanned the same 57 items with each app. Below you will find the results of this research. If you would like to look at the apps in further detail, I wrote about each in-depth.
What Is The Best Gluten Scanning App?
I took 6 gluten scanning apps I found on the Google Play Store and downloaded them on my Android phone. I then scanned 57 items, mostly in the grocery store and some online. From this data, I was able to get a good idea of the accuracy, their database, user experience, and I found some shocking information.
First, let’s look at the data I was able to get.
For accuracy, I found the manufacturers’ data on whether an item was gluten free. I split up the results into contains gluten, may contain gluten, no gluten ingredients, and gluten free (or certified gluten free). I then compared it to what the scanners said.
|How many items were found?||How accurate were the results?|
|The Gluten Free Scanner||77.19%||93.18%|
Spoonful had the highest number of items found by far. Although the table shows that a low % agreed, when I looked at the products individually, I saw that they almost always stated the reason and gave more information on it. This additional information agreed with the manufacturer except in one case where they did not note a cross-contamination label on the product. However, the warning was that it was made in a facility with wheat which is not required labeling and not something generally considered troublesome.
Spoonful ended up having the best accuracy, information, and database size out of all 6 apps I tested, and I would recommend it above the others.
Which Gluten Free Barcode Scanning App Is The Most Accurate?
|How accurate were the results?|
|The Gluten Free Scanner||93.18%|
Immediately The Gluten Free Scanner and ShopWell come out as the highest. Spoonful had some issues that pushed it to lower inaccuracy, but it makes sense when looking at the individual items. Spoonful’s biggest setback in this study was how thorough the information was.
Bringing up the bottom of the pack, we have Gluten Watcher scoring barely better than a coin flip. In fact, Gluten Watcher had major issues with accuracy, such as noting Mission Flour Tortillas as no gluten ingredients.
What Is The Biggest Database of the Gluten Scanning Apps?
|How many items were found?|
|The Gluten Free Scanner||77.19%|
Spoonful takes a dramatic lead in this category, with only 2 items in our study not found in their database.
When choosing the products to scan, I chose 22 items that were questionable as to their gluten free status, 18 clearly had gluten, and another 18 were clearly gluten free or even certified gluten free.
I also tried to choose name brands and not store brands to get the most products to scan as possible.
Gluten Scan clearly brought up the rear here while the rest hung out in the middle together.
|First launched on the Play Store|
|The Gluten Free Scanner||January 4, 2013|
|ShopWell||December 23, 2013|
|Gluten Scan||November 26, 2020|
|InFood||August 11, 2019|
|Spoonful||November 10, 2019|
|Gluten Watcher||September 12, 2020|
Clearly, some of these apps have had longer to grow their database and users. Surprising here is that Spoonful is less than 2 years old and has the largest database. Gluten Scan isn’t even a year old yet, and their lack of a database is not surprising.
|Downloads on the Play Store|
|The Gluten Free Scanner||100,000+|
Since they all use crowdsourcing to find what is gluten free, it is surprising that one of the apps with fewer downloads had the most items pull up in this study.
|Available on the App Store|
|The Gluten Free Scanner||yes|
Which Scanning App Has The Best User Experience?
InFood and Gluten Watcher are only available on Android and not on Apple products, so they are not universally available to users.
InFood was the only app that did not give access to a database of your own scanned items. Although I didn’t use the paid version, there was no option as an upgrade either.
I used the free versions of all the apps to compare their features side by side. Some of the apps had paid versions, and some even said they had more items available in their database for their paid users.
Gluten Watcher constantly failed and had to be restarted. The other thing about Gluten Watcher that I really didn’t like was that it only noted “Gluten: Yes” or “Gluten: No.” Anyone who has started to look into gluten free products knows that not all products can be categorized so neatly.
The Gluten Scanner had many errors as I used it, which became annoying as I went through all 6 apps every time I scanned a new item.
ShopWell had many things it could check for and wasn’t always clear if the item was gluten free as it only listed gluten and wheat in problem ingredients and never on the positive side.
Spoonful had the most information. When a product was questionably not gluten free it had hyperlinked ingredients with a statement reviewed by a nutritionist. However, there may have been too much information to really find what you need when scanning in stores.
However, I did find that Spoonful had the best overall user experience.
Which Gluten Scanning Apps Should Be Avoided?
Gluten Scan and Gluten Watcher were the most inaccurate apps and should not be trusted.
I will put a caveat on Gluten Scan: it is less than a year old, and crowdsourcing information requires more people to try it. I think the developers could much improve this app with more users. It also seems to be written by a single person, and all of the reviews in the Play Store have responses by the same person. It would be great if people helped improve this app!
However, as it stands currently, you cannot trust gluten Scan.
On the other hand, Gluten Watcher had so many inaccuracies I started to wonder if this app was written as a joke or to troll people. As such, I will give no more time to discuss this one except to avoid it at all costs.
What Is The Best Gluten Scanning App?
So that was a lot of information! If you want to look at individual apps and how they responded in our testing, go to the individual pages going over their information.
Overall, I found the Spoonful is the app I would recommend the most.
I can see that Spoonful commits to bringing people information on the food they are eating and keeping it as accurate as they can.
The names of the products are in green, orange, and red depending on how gluten free the item is, with additional explanations about the ingredients. I found no red flags on items. It flagged gluten free that was not. And in most cases, it tended to err on the side of caution.
The most important thing to remember about any of the apps is that they are crowdsourced. This means that on the whole, they are no better than asking a group on social media what they think and trusting that the average response is correct.
Some of the apps have a process to verify the accuracy, but they are all crowd-sourced information.
The best thing you can learn as much about gluten free ingredients yourself and read product labels. Look for gluten free certification, especially one that says “beyond celiac” because they will have less than 10ppm gluten.
If you are just getting started in your gluten free journey and looking for something to help you, pop on over to this article for my best tips on getting started.