The Gluten Free Scanner was the most popular brand that we found in use by gluten free families. Being able to point your cell phone camera at a product barcode and know whether or not it is safe would take so much worry out of shopping. The problem comes in when there are inaccuracies and products don’t show up when scanned. So is this app worth it?
The Gluten Free Scanner had an accuracy of 93.18% when compared to companies self-reporting if their product was gluten free. 77.19% of scanned items were found in their system or had data in their system. The most concerning misinformation were on Rice Krispies and Bugles.
We scanned a variety of products and used The Gluten Free Scanner and five other similar apps to see if we could find the most accurate one. What we ended up finding was shocking. If you would like to read more about the comparison, click here to go to that article. Below you will find in-depth information regarding The Gluten Free Scanner in particular.
How Well Does The Gluten Free Scanner Work?
I wanted to try out the different gluten free scanning apps to see if any of them would work well enough to trust them. And I wanted to save everyone else the hassle of doing this as well.
I scanned 22 items that I thought people would question whether they contained gluten, 18 labeled gluten free, and 18 contained wheat. I then figured out what the manufacturers said about these items and compared them to what the scanners said.
Accuracy: The Gluten Free Scanner agreed with the manufacturer 93.18% of the time. After we took out the no information found instances, only 3 items were not in agreement. However, these 3 items are some of the most questionable and could cause major damage if someone did not do further research.
Database: The Gluten Free Scanner found 77.19% of the items that we scanned. Most of the items that did not scan are major brands. However, I will tell them that these are mainly brands that most people following a gluten free diet would not scan.
User Experience: Overall, this was a straightforward app to use. Downloading and installing had no issues, and there was no required login to use the app. However, the scanner did not want to scan many times. There seem to be an issue with shiny packages, round or distorted containers, especially reflections. To get it to scan, I had to tap on the screen to focus. The auto-focus was very poor.
How Accurate Is The Gluten Free Scanner?
We scanned a total of 57 different products. There were about equal gluten, gluten free, and questionable items. While we were trying to test the app and see what it could do, we also wanted to test it on items people may naturally be scanning.
Out of the 57 products we scanned, The Gluten Free Scanner agreed with the manufacturer 42 times. The app did not find an additional 13 items, so our accuracy rate is 93.18%.
There were 3 items that they disagreed on.
However, the three items they disagreed on were significant.
Bugles have wheat flour listed on their ingredients, and the company says that this contains wheat and gluten. The Gluten Free Scanner lists this as something that “may contain gluten.” There are separate designations for contains and may contain.
Rice Krispies Cereal and Rice Krispie Treats both contain malt flavoring. Malt is made from barley, and this ingredient means that both of these are not suitable for a gluten free diet. However, The Gluten Free Scanner lists both of these as “may contain.”
I am disappointed in these small differences in the designation. In my opinion, “may contain” should be reserved for the warnings you may see on the label from the factory. Such as manufactured on the same lines as wheat and then includes a may contain a statement on the label. This should not be used when it contains an ingredient that absolutely does contain gluten.
Does The Gluten Free Scanner Have A Large Database Of Items?
The Play Store description says that this app has over 500,000 items in its database.
In our testing, we found that 42 out of 57 items could scan and provide some information. That is 77.19%.
We restricted most scanning to name brands for the most possible information. Even so, many came up with no information at all.
The items that The Gluten Free Scanner did not find were: Wheat Thins, Gluten Free Oreos, Pringles, Peanut M&Ms, Onions (in the produce section), Oat Milk, Honey Maid Graham Crackers, Chef Boyardee Mini Beef Ravioli, Kix, Rice Krispies Cereal, Raisin Bran Cereal, Franz Keto White Bread, Cheddar Folios Cheese Wraps, and Bar M Applewood Smoked Sausage with Bacon.
To their credit, most of the items listed here contain wheat, and most people following a gluten free diet would not be scanning them. However, there were specific gluten free and some questionable items, and someone would want to check on them. For example, the Applewood Smoked Sausage was labeled gluten free on the package but had no certification label. Someone may want to scan that to find out if it really is gluten free.
So while they claim to have an extensive database of items, only about three-quarters of the items scanned in our test came up with any information at all.
How Is The User Experience Of The Gluten Free Scanner?
Overall, the user experience on the app itself is a positive one.
There were no issues downloading and installing it, and no login data was required to use it.
However, there were many times when it had major issues with scanning the barcodes. Sometimes the barcode was on a shiny surface, and it reflected the fluorescent lights used in the grocery store. I was able to get around this by putting it under an empty shelf and scanning it.
The other issue I had with the scanning function was its ability to focus, especially close up. Such as when I had to put it under a shelf to get the glare off. At least half the time, it required that I tap on the screen to focus and accept the barcode.
If you are scanning in moderate light, it would have been a better experience. It made me wonder whether the app functionality was tested in a home or office environment and not in a grocery store.
They do have a paid version that supposedly has more items. However, I only used the free version for this review as that is what most people will be using.
What Are The Major Problems With The Gluten Free Scanner?
By far, the biggest user issue I had with The Gluten Free Scanner is designating something as “may contain gluten” when it contains wheat flour and malt extract.
That may contain statement is used on packaging when there is a chance it could contain it. Some people may have different sensitivity levels and may be ok with possible cross-contamination but not with gluten ingredients.
The scanner issue I had wasn’t that impactful. I was able to get it to actually scan the item after manipulating the package or shading the glare. All the instances of not getting information were from a lack of data in the database. It was the most annoying thing about using the app but not impactful.
Overall the largest issue I see with The Gluten Free Scanner App is that it is crowdsourced and not fact-checked.
This app is no more accurate than going to a social media group and asking everyone if something is gluten free and taking the average response.
Is The Gluten Free Scanner Something You Should Use?
In general, you should never use any gluten scanner apps without looking at other data. You should always check the ingredients yourself and search the product website. If you can’t find anything on the product website, you can try looking on celiac.com for some information.
If you decide to use a gluten scanner app, this one had relatively high rates of information on scans, and the rate it was correct was very high. The only time it wasn’t correct in my testing was “may contain” instead of “contains.”
If you want to see a comparison of 6 total apps to find the best one, click here to find it.