/ Food & Drink

Could augmented reality help us be better food shoppers?

Working out which products to buy when concerned about animal welfare can be a tricky task. Here’s how we’re tackling the problem in Australia with an app we developed, writes our guest author Katinka Day from CHOICE.

In Australia and in other countries around the world, many egg brands claim to be “free range” and with labels boasting luscious fields of happy chickens and marketing claims such as ‘organic’, ‘free-to-roam’, or ‘pasture-raised’ – it’s one of the more confusing choices to make in the supermarket.

But choosing eggs could soon get a bit easier for Australians. Just a few weeks ago, new free range egg labelling laws came into effect.

The new laws mean that eggs can only be classified as ‘free range’ if hens have “meaningful and regular access” to the outdoors where they can roam and forage; and egg producers run a maximum stocking density of 10,000 hens per hectare or one hen per square metre.

Consumer confusion

This is good and bad news. The good news is that new rules require eggs labelled ‘free range’ to display the stocking density (the room hens have to room) on pack. This means shoppers can easily distinguish between eggs that come from hens with lots of room to move from those that don’t.

The bad news is that the definition of free range eggs still isn’t strict enough. CHOICE wanted ‘free range’ to meet common sense expectations – meaning that hens actually go outside and have room to move.

Even though stocking densities are now listed, the new standard only requires that hens have ‘access’ to the outdoors, rather than actually spending time outdoors. It also allows stocking densities of up to 10,000 hens per hectare. That’s far above the well-accepted 1,500 hens per hectare stocking density set by animal welfare organisations in Australia.

There’s an app for that

While these new laws are an improvement, they might not make buying free range eggs less confusing, especially for people who don’t know what an acceptable stocking density might be.

To make buying eggs easier, CHOICE developed a free augmented reality app called CluckAR designed to help shoppers avoid dodgy free range eggs in the supermarket. The app lets people scan egg cartons using their phones to determine whether they are really “free range” or not.

This allows people to easily distinguish between the good and the bad rather than having to interpret stocking density information themselves.

Is it good enough?

While using an augmented reality app is a bit of fun and helps people navigate the egg market, should we really have to reach to our phones and use apps every time we try and make an informed decision?

What are your thoughts? Do you have a hard time trying to find genuine free range eggs in the UK?


the public was advised not to eat raw meat. Presume you meant undercooked meat? From as long as i can remember I have been advised to ensure poultry (and pork) were thoroughly cooked before eating, and raw meat was not stored where it could contaminate cooked meat or other food. Proper cooking kills campylobacter.

Some often condemn companies as incapable of acting with integrity, where it seems the norm to assume all profit making enterprises are wicked villains 🙂 It is certainly easier to draw attention to a deficiency, rather than when a company behaves normally or better. I do the same with Which?


I have added a correction, thanks Malcolm.

On the basis that all the supermarkets and other retailers were selling raw chicken that was heavily contaminated (>1000 cfg/g) and that following press publicity, standards have shown improvement (but not enough) I do believe that companies are not capable of self-policing. I’m looking at facts and not using ‘wicked villains’ or other emotive terms.

This page has a video showing undercover investigation in processing plants that supply chicken for retailers: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/nov/27/dirty-chicken-scandal-campylobacter-eight-out-10-uk-birds-supermarkets-asda Subsequent to release of this video, contamination figures were released for most supermarkets.

We have plenty of other Conversations to discuss the continuing campylobacter problem.


The investigation is 4 years old.
Latest data (Oct 2017) https://www.food.gov.uk/news-updates/news/2017/16629/final-results-third-annual-retail-survey “In the last period of the third annual survey, April – July 2017, based on a total of 1,437 chicken samples 5.9% of chickens had high levels of campylobacter (over 1,000 cfu/g) down from 20.1% for the same period in 2014. ”

Perhaps more relevant to eggs is salmonella.
New FSA advice on eating runny eggs
11th October 2017

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has announced a change to its advice about eating eggs – now infants, children, pregnant women and elderly people can safely eat raw or lightly cooked eggs that are produced under the British Lion Code of Practice..

The decision to change the advice is a result of the findings from an expert group that was set up to look at egg safety. Dr Gary Barker from the Quadram Institute was a member of the group, contributing his expertise on risk assessment in the food chain.

The expert group found that the presence of Salmonella in UK eggs has been dramatically reduced by the British Lion scheme, and the risks are now very low. More than 90% of UK eggs are produced under this food safety scheme, identifiable by the familiar Lion mark.”

The British Egg Industry Council
Since its formation in 1986, the British Egg Industry Council has been committed to representing the UK egg industry on matters ranging from breeding, hatching and rearing of hens, to egg production, packing, processing and marketing. The BEIC’s prime objective is to act as a voice for its members, representing their interests and expressing their concerns in discussions with Government, the European Commission, European Parliament and other important bodies.

Composed of 11 major industry trade associations, the BEIC is primarily funded by voluntary levies from those within the industry that together produce around 90% of the UK’s eggs. The BEIC is further responsible for the formation and running of the British Egg Information Service to provide the public with information concerning egg recipes, egg nutrition, egg safety and egg production.

The Lion Mark
By subscribing to and supporting the British Egg Industry Council, its subscribers adhere to the Lion Code of Practice, a system which maintains the highest standards of egg safety and egg production throughout the UK.

Since its introduction in 1998 the British Lion scheme has effectively eradicated Salmonella in British eggs by implementing a series of stringent standards across the egg production chain. The UK egg industry has invested £100 million into the scheme, and now maintains a level of food safety that goes above and beyond the required target outlined in current UK and EU legislation.

The Lion Quality Code of Practice ensures greater standards of food safety by requiring the vaccination of British Lion hens against Salmonella as well as implementing higher standards of animal welfare, feeding and traceability.”


I’m well aware that the Guardian undercover investigation is four years old and I posted the link because you made an unfair criticism directed at me. High level campylobacter contamination is the greatest risk and while standards have improved, the contamination levels for the supermarkets and other retailers tested still show a significant proportion of chicken is contaminated. Not all retailers have done as well as others. Marks & Spencer have managed to reduce high level contamination from 10% to 9% in the past four years according to the most recent data on their website: https://corporate.marksandspencer.com/campylobacter/campylobacter-oct-dec-17.pdf


The recommendation to avoid eating runny eggs was thanks to Edwina Currie who was heavily criticised for warning the public of the small risk to certain members of the public. This led to the vaccination of birds to largely eliminate the risk.


I admire M&S for publishing their own results. The average among producers was 20.1% in 2014, when M&S was half that. And their other degrees seem to be also reduced. It is a difficult bacterium to deal with. Ideas to do so? I could buy deep frozen, chlorinated in future, but I’d prefer to take chicken from a decent retailer and stick to the long-standing advice to cook it properly. Meanwhile supermarket “interventions” are still ongoing and hopefully will reduce the natural organism still further.

Perhaps we should return to eggs, the subject of this topic?


I believe that retailers are obliged to publish data. If there is any new information, we can discuss it in a relevant Convo.