Mobile phone snaps tell Big Macs from broccoli

Digital images used to keep intelligent food diary for better eating

McDonald s

What did you have for lunch yesterday? How about last Thursday? Have you been getting enough calcium? Iron? Vitamins?

It's nigh on impossible recalling what we've been eating, never mind using that knowledge to keep to a balanced diet, which is why a team at the University of Tokyo in Japan has come up with a way for our mobile phones or digital cameras to do all the hard work.

Staple fodder

The researchers have developed image-recognition software that can tell meat and potatoes from fish and rice and can ignore any non-food items in an image, the point being to establish what food groups are present in a meal merely by analysing a photo of it.

The idea is that users take a snap of whatever they eat using a camera or cameraphone and have the software keep a meal diary what they've been consuming. Accuracy is claimed to be around 90 per cent.

Eat more greens

Simple comparison against recommended good dietary habits then can provide pointers as to what kinds of food are lacking in any diet or even if too much of something is going down the hatch.

Japanese PC and phone users will be able to try the software for themselves this autumn, as the university plans to offer it as a free download then, along with an online food diary service.