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Nutritional Information Service
Technical Field
The invention generally relates to providing a consumer with information on the nutritional value of purchased food items.
More particularly the invention relates to providing information on the nutritional value of food items and recommending items which provide an improved nutritional value in terms of the individual consumers needs.

Background Art
Various methods of informing a consumer of the nutritional value of purchased items are known, such as calorie counting charts and charts or calculation aids denoting food content in terms of carbohydrates, protein, saturated or unsaturated fat, fibre or other food groups.
Few such methods allow the consumer to make an instructed choice of items while buying or allow a virtually instantaneous analysis of what is bought once purchased, though published US application 2005/0049920 provides one possible solution in < which goods purchased by a consumer at a store are recorded against the buyer, however this does not deal with a real situation where goods are bought for more than one consumer.
Therefore a need exists for a solution to the problem of advising a consumer of the nutritional content of items which have been purchased or which are about to be purchased and which is adapted to cope with a household of consumers.
The present invention provides a solution to this and other problems which offers advantages over the prior art or which will at least provide the public with a useful choice.
All references, including any patents or patent applications cited in this specification are hereby incorporated by reference. No admission is made that any reference constitutes prior art. The discussion of the references states what their authors assert, and the applicants reserve the right to challenge the accuracy and pertinency of the cited documents. It will be clearly understood that, although a prior art publication is referred to herein, this reference does not constitute an admission that any of these documents form part of the common general knowledge in the art, in New Zealand or in any other country.
It is acknowledged that the term 'comprise' may, under varying jurisdictions, be attributed with either an exclusive or an inclusive meaning. For the purpose of this specification, and unless otherwise noted, the term 'comprise' shall have an inclusive meaning - i.e. that it will be taken to mean an inclusion of not only the listed components it directly references, but also other non-specified components or elements. This rationale will also be used when the term 'comprised' or 'comprising' is used in relation to one or more steps in a method or process.

Summary Of The Invention
In one exemplification the invention relates to a method of calculating the food intake of a group of persons comprising providing a suggested food intake for each of the persons, providing food intake exceptions for each person, comparing a list of foods obtained or to be obtained by the persons with the amalgamated suggested food intake and food exceptions of all persons, and suggesting other foods where the food intake is not compatible with the suggested food intake.
Preferably each food item on a list obtained or to be obtained can be allocated against. the group of persons, partially against one person of the group or wholly against one person of the group.
Preferably a food item from a list is allocated against a group of persons and the allocation is weighted based on expected consumption levels of each person.
Preferably the list of foods obtained or to be obtained is a store purchase or pre-purchase listing.
Preferably the listing of foods is obtained remotely from the food source.
Preferably foods obtained or acquired outside a store purchase system may be added to the list.
Preferably the list is of foods to be obtained the suggestions are graded in strength upon a compatibility basis.

Preferably where the listing is of foods to be obtained a suggested listing with a map of the purchase route is provided.
Alternatively the invention relates to a food intake recorder and allocator comprising: a storage device capable of recording personal details of the characteristics of one or more persons making up a group of persons which characteristics relate to that persons actual or recommended dietary intake;
the storage device being also capable of recording rules defining the permitted or preferred dietary intake of each person of the group based on their personal details;
the storage device being also capable of recording the cumulative dietary intake of the group of persons;
a calculating device allocating at least a portion of the cumulative dietary
intake to each person on the basis of the recorded rules to estimate the actual dietary intake of each person.
Preferably a notifier associated with the calculating device provides notification when the bounds of a rule are exceeded.
Preferably a notification provided by the notifier may be classed as either advisory or mandatory.
Preferably the notifier provides substitutes for some items proposed to be bought where a rule bound is exceeded.
Preferably the cumulative dietary intake includes a listing of proposed purchases. Preferably the cumulative dietary intake includes a store purchase listing.
These and other features of the invention as well as advantages which characterise the present invention will be apparent upon reading of the following detailed description and review of the associated drawings.

Brief Description of the Drawings
FIG. 1 is a flow diagram of the process of recording the parameters relating to food products, to individuals and a group of individuals.

FIG. 2 is a diagram of the collection and interaction of the information required

FIG. 3 is a flow diagram of the process of calculating and modifying a proposed purchase list.

Description of the Invention
Referring now to FIG. 1 it is assumed that information on products for sale has been extracted at 101 , normally using as a key the product UPC barcode number, and parsed for entry into a database 103 at 102. Information stored is preferably sufficient to allow identification of what might be problem foods for some persons, thus for carbohydrate containing foods there may be an entry for the gluten content, for items that come in food coloured and colourless versions the level of colouring may be specified. Other attributes stored may be the lactose content, the nut content, the sucrose content, the glucose content, the preservative content. Also entered at 104 is the information relating to a person or a group of persons such as a family. This is normally the weight of each person, their age and sex, the body mass index (BMI), preferably the basal metabolic rate, the exercise level of that person, the mobility, any dietary prohibitions (for instance a peanut allergy), and dietary peculiarities (for instance that the person is a diabetic), and any dietary preferences (for instance a preference for wholemeal bread over white bread, for tea over coffee, for trim over whole milk).
Also entered into the database at 106 are rules giving the dietary preferences of particular persons, to provide an aid in allocating the amount of purchases made in common against one person. Additional rules 107 provide the dietary prohibitions and exceptions for a single person, so that advice can be provided when it appears likely that a person will buy a food item which is not recommended, for instance a gluten containing product when a person has gluten intolerance.
At 108 the persons making up a group are defined so that, for instance, the members of a family or the flatmates in a flat may purchase food to be used in common, but which can be allocated against their particular preferences or prohibitions.
Additional rules suggesting what dietary intake should be substituted for another undesirable intake are provided at 109, 110, for instance, suggesting the substitution of a protein intake for an equal calorific value fat intake, the substitution of a sugar free drink for a sugared drink, or the substitution of a high bulk, lower calorie item for a low bulk, high calorie item such as a wholemeal bread roll for a portion of cheese.

Once the basic information is captured data on the purchases or proposed purchases of the person or persons may be entered. This may be in the form of a purchase slip from a supermarket or a pre-purchase list from an online supermarket, and might be obtained through an internet connection to the supermarket authority if the person is a registered user of the supermarket. This latter is preferably since it will give access to the UPC code which is a precise indicator of the actual bought item, rather than the possibly ambiguous description on the purchase slip which varies from supermarket to supermarket.
A proportion of each item purchased is preferably allocated to "waste", this proportion varying with the food item - thus unwashed potatoes may have a 15% waste allocation while beluga caviar would have a 1% waste allocation.
Where the list is shared among more than one person, as is usually the case where buying is for a family rather than a single person, or for the members of a flat, the cumulative list contents may be shared in one of several ways. Preferably the system stores the BMI, age and level of physical activity of each member and allocates a portion of the purchases on this basis. Thus the person with the lowest BMI coupled with the highest physical activity would be allocated a higher proportion of the intake than other persons. The allocation will typically be empirical, but based on guides derived from the information held on each person.
Alternatively, or in addition, a persons preferred food groups are held within the system and a higher proportion of these groups is allocated to a person who prefers them than is allocated to one who does not. Thus a purchase of chocolate covered raspberry flavoured liquorice is preferably allocated 90% to the person whose rather odd food preference this is, while a purchase of rolled oats would only be allocated 50% to the person whose preferences included porridge since such a food is commonly shared.
In most instances it is possible to allocate each item purchased to either one person, or to be shared among all in predetermined proportions. Preferably the user interface allows simple distribution of this type of allocation. Where it is more difficult to determine the likely allocation it may be necessary to allocate portions of the intake to each person individually.
FIG. 2 shows an implementation of the invention in which a laptop 201 is connected via Internet 202 to a web server 203 associated with nutritional information database 204. Data such as the weight, height, demographic, and lifestyle information on a person may be input, and information such as the body mass index (BMI) derived from these figures as an indication of the dietary condition of the person. This input allows the lifestyle of the person to be taken into account, thus allowing the very different needs of a sedentary office worker and an active weekend athlete to be taken into account.
A computer such as 206 may allow the input of information relating to food items such as 207, these being input preferably based on the unique UPC bar code and specifying at least the energy, fat, protein, carbohydrate and fibre content of a food and preferably the sugar, saturated fat and sodium levels. Additional information such as any potential allergen levels (nuts, eggs, gluten) may also be entered.
When information on purchases is entered the dietary intake 209 and personal data 210 is combined to produce one or more reports, comparisons or recommendations at 211. These may merely be a trend report such as 212 which indicates the dietary and weight trends of a person or a personal shopping guide 213 which recommends what the person should be buying to achieve a maintenance of a persons current state, or the achievement of a different target state. The shopping guide may merely suggest which food groups purchases should be from or it may specifically point to a particular type of product as providing what is required to balance the nutritional "budget". Many other outputs are possible, from a buying guide for a whole family to a list, of the -demographic distribution of all persons held in the database. Linking this data to other food information available from food composition database makes it possible to provide a more detailed picture of nutrient intake such as the intake for certain vitamins or minerals. This information would be available for one person as well as demographically, providing a near real-time image of a nation's dietary trends.

If the database is hosted by a supermarket and a pre-purchase list is being compiled the recommended dietary intake for a person or family may be produced accompanied by a floor plan of the supermarket with the preferred track through the supermarket and the location of each item recommended for purchase marked on the floor plan. This process is well known as the algorithm for deriving the most efficient path.
As an adjunct to the system it is envisaged that the system contains recipes for various items, and that a shopper may choose to buy the ingredients for a specific recipe falling within the dietary recommendations and will be directed to the correct items.
As shown in FIG. 3 a shopping list, either of bought items or of items it is intended to buy, may be processed to identify whether it meets the dietetic requirements for the persons for which it is bought. Typically, where a shopping list is approved prior to purchase via an internet ordering and vetting process such a list is received at 301 and the persons to whom the list applies are selected at 302, normally as part of a login process.
From the list of items each item is selected at 303 and the nutritional information calculated at 304. Then the nutritional input is allocated against the intake of one or more persons at 305, either on a split share basis or on the basis of the persons preferences, the persons required dietary intake, the persons BMI or some combination of these. Once the food item is allocated a check against the persons recommendations and prohibitions is made at 306. If it is found that the food item contains prohibited components, for instance the person concerned has a nut allergy and the food item contains nuts, the user is advised of the problem at 307 by a notifying means together with a suggested resolution to the problem. This may be as simple as requesting the user to discard the item, and the subsequent removal of the item from the list.
Following this the problem is assumed resolved at 308.
If no problem is found at 306 a check is made at 309 for potential problems, such as a high sucrose content in the food item, or the presence of lactose where the user prefers to avoid it. Again the user is advised of the problem and it is accepted that resolution will take place.
Where no problem is found a final check is made at 311 to see if there is a substitute for the item purchased or any component of it which is more acceptable either dietetically or monetarily. If one is found it is suggested at 312 to allow user action before proceeding. Once all checks have been made the end result is totalled at 313 both to an overall nutrition tally as well as to the nutritional intake for the persons concerned and the next item in the list is processed at 314. Once all items have been processed the list is considered approved at 315.
Such a process is typically carried out by a program associated with the database of FIG. 1 , and the program may be run remotely from a web page or may be held on a local computer.
Where a supermarket uses customer scanning of goods into a supermarket trolley the scanner may be linked directly to the database, providing an immediate update of goods for purchase. In this case the rules for substitution of other goods if those chosen do not meet the dietary requirements may be made either by print out from the scanner, from the scanner display or by an audio feed from a scanner associated loudspeaker. Such recommendations may range from a mere suggestion to an authoritative or mandatory refusal depending on the persons preferences, and the impact of a variation outside the set requirements. Thus, for instance, where the person is a diabetic the purchase of certain items may not be allowed. Similarly where a person has a known food allergy the proposed purchase may be accompanied by an alarm notifying the shopper that the content of a food may be suspect for at least one person in the shoppers family.
Alternatively the nutritional information device may be a handheld consumer owned device which may scan the barcode of a food item and from information resident in the device may calculate the nutritional information of that food item and the total nutritional intake. This may, if the consumer desires, also provide suggestions, although these would not be aimed at the supermarket promotion lines as a commercial version would be.
The content values of each food item are preferably updated regularly, and where the database is held by a supermarket the information may be provided by the vendor of the product. Lookup and totalling of nutritional information is by means of standard database querying and reporting functions.

Where items are bought from a supermarket it is possible to vary the recommendations in accordance with the demographics of the area in which the supermarket is located. For instance a supermarket centred in an area where there is a high incidence of Type 2 diabetes can be biased to recommend a diet low in processed sugars, a supermarket in a high income area to recommend lower solid content upmarket cheeses.
While the system is described above as applying to goods of known dietary content it is equally applicable to use where the items are not bought or are bought from outside a recordable supermarket style environment. In such a case the dietary content of the food may be estimated from typical nutritional information charts so that, for instance, an apple from a tree may be entered to the system with an estimate for the typical sugar, fibre and other carbohydrate content.
Since the system maintains an updatable record of what amounts to the physical state of each person in a group it is possible to provide a trend analysis giving an indication of the likely health state of each of the persons in the group. For instance a persistent weight gain coupled with a decreasing dietary intake may signal fluid retention problems.
It is to be understood that even though numerous characteristics and advantages of the various embodiments of the present invention have been set forth in the foregoing description, together with details of the structure and functioning of various embodiments of the invention, this disclosure is illustrative only, and changes may be made in detail so long as the functioning of the invention is not adversely affected. For example the particular elements of the calculation of the nutritional information may vary dependent on the particular application for which it is used without variation in the spirit and scope of the present invention.
In addition, although the preferred embodiments described herein are directed to the calculation of nutritional information as related to the purchase of items, it will be appreciated by those skilled in the at that the teachings of the present invention can be applied to systems including home produced goods, without departing from the scope and spirit of the present invention.

lndustrial Applicability
The nutritional information of the invention is used in the preparation of
recommendations for purchases of food which is required by a group of persons. The input requirements and recommendations allow tracking and potential control of the dietary input of persons in the group. Additionally the invention provides the opportunity for the extraction of information usable by food vendors to direct a consumers choice of food, thus providing industrial applicability.