Willmore Co., a Tokyo-based health information research firm, launched a free online site in late September that members can search for food they’re not allergic to.
On the site at www.kumitasu.com (in Japanese only), members specify their food allergens such as eggs, wheat or “soba” (buckwheat noodles) and can then see a list of food products that do not contain them, with their pictures. The site covers about 40,000 food items.
The members can purchase the food through links to such major online shopping malls as Rakuten Ichiba and Amazon.
Currently, they can search for 25 allergens, including seven items — shrimp, crab, wheat, soba, eggs, milk and peanuts — which the Consumer Affairs Agency obliges food manufacturers to specify on product labels.
Willmore President Mayu Ishikawa, a former employee at an information technology company, established the firm in 2009 with the hope of building a system to make it easier for consumers to find safe food ingredients.
“It had been difficult to find (nonallergenic) food ingredients and too few options were available,” said Ishikawa, who is herself allergic to milk.
In 2012, Willmore developed the smartphone app Allergy Checker, which uses the built-in camera to read product bar codes to check for allergens.
Willmore then created a database based on the information about food allergens contained in each product, which then led the company to launch Kumitasu.
If a label didn’t specify what ingredients were used, the company phoned the manufacturer to find out.
Willmore said it plans to up the number of searchable food allergens and products, and to carry on the website the experiences of consumers and doctors’ opinions.