Currently submitted to: JMIR Formative Research
Date Submitted: Feb 21, 2020
Open Peer Review Period: Feb 20, 2020 - Apr 2, 2020
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Mobile phone applications for food allergies and/or intolerances: A systematic search and quality assessment of the identified applications in Apps Stores.
Food allergies and intolerances, as adverse reactions to the ingestion, contact or inhalation of a specific food, derivate or additive, are increasing worldwide, whereas mobile phone applications (Apps) are emerging as a promising tool in the management of food allergies and/or intolerances.
The aim of this review is to systemically search and integrate the information of Apps present in Apple App Store (iOS) and Google Play Store (Android) about food allergies and/or intolerances, and to evaluate their quality through the Mobile App Rating Scale (MARS) tool.
Apps were searched through specific keywords translated in English, Spanish and Italian language (“food allergy”, “food intolerance” and “allergens”). Inclusion criteria were: ≥ 3/5 minimum users’ star rating as a tool to evaluate Apps’ quality; ≥ 1000 reviews as an indicator of reliability; and last update up to 2017. Eligible Apps were evaluated and searched on PubMed to check if already present in scientific articles. Apps’ features were distinguished into input and output ones, depending on whether the contents were inserted by users or automatically generated. The included Apps were divided according to their function (“food products”, “restaurants” and “meal planners” Apps) and evaluated through the MARS tool comprising: 1) App classification category, collecting general and technical information; 2) App quality category, divided into “objective” (including four sections: engagement, functionality, aesthetics, and information) and “subjective” quality; and 3) App specific section, as optional section to evaluate the perceived impact of the App. Only App quality category and App specific section were rated for the quality assessment. For each section, mean±standard deviations (SD), statistical significance between-sections and between Apps’ function were evaluated.
Fourteen Apps were included: n=12 related to food allergies and intolerances, detecting from 2 to 15 food allergens; and n=2 related to gluten intolerance only. From the MARS quality assessment: a) objective quality scored 3.8±0.4 points (mean± SD of 5 maximum points); b) subjective quality scored 3.5±0.6 points; and c) App specific section scored 3.6±0.7 points. Therefore, Apps resulted in overall acceptable quality, considering ratings ≥ of 3points. From a between-sections comparison, engagement obtained lower scores than functionality, aesthetics and information sections. However, comparing Apps by function, “meal planners” Apps presented higher scores for the engagement section (4.1±0.4 points), than “food products” (3.0±0.6) and “restaurants” Apps (3.2±0.3 points) (P<.05).
The present review integrates information of 14 Apps to help consumers to avoid food allergies and/or intolerances, providing suggestions for future Apps. Specifically, the analysed Apps have acceptable quality despite the MARS engagement section should be further improved in “food products” and “restaurants” function Apps. Additionally, for Apps recommendation, their effectiveness in detecting food allergens should be tested in scientific trials.
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