We're back with another great addition to our '5 minutes with...' series which focuses on people, products and brands we want to focus on within the allergy and free from world!
This week, we're featuring the lovely Dr Lauri-Ann Van der Poel from FoodMaestro, a fantastic app created to support thise with allergies and intolerances. Dr Lauri-Ann and the team behind FoodMaestro work tirelessly to build and maintain a huge database of foods and their ingredients to provide a product data platform like no other. This app provides much needed up to date information on food products, and enables you to build profiles so you can quickly and easily which food products are safe.
Who is the team behind FoodMaestro?
We are a dynamic team with a range of expertise in health, digital tech, data consulting and ultimately we all share an interest in food allergy, food intolerances and making informed choices for healthy eating. Our vision is to become the food product data platform of choice for all healthcare professionals, their patients and ultimately consumers.
What is FoodMaestro?
In simple terms FoodMaestro is an intelligent food search technology. We have developed healthcare solutions in partnership with Guy’s & St Thomas Hospital Trust and Kings College London and our platforms are used today by Healthcare professionals.
We also have 2 mobile apps for consumers:
- The FoodMaestro app benefits food allergy and intolerance sufferers, and those with specific diets. Our main aim is to provide greater food choices making it easier to find what you can eat, rather than what you can’t.
- The FODMAP by FM app provides a three stage approach to managing a Low FODMAP diet for those with IBS. A key feature of the app is finding suitable foods you can consume at each stage.
5 random facts about the team?
One of us recently learnt how to surf, one of us has cycled in the Himalayas, we all love travelling, family and of course food…
What is the story behind FoodMaestro and your work?
Jaed Khan, our CEO, and original concept founder with food allergic son had a background in data consulting and wanted to make shopping for healthier, safer foods easier. He bounced his ideas off an old friend with 20 years of experience in data technology and successful entrepreneurship, Dharmendra Patel. Dharmendra reached out to an old family friend and children's allergy specialist, Lauri-Ann Van der Poel (me) for advice and there was an explosion of ideas about how to tackle the project! We unified forces with Bal Cummins, who has a design and marketing background and Ken Chan for technical expertise and worked together to find ways to obtain and present ingredients information to make life easier for those who want to know what is in their food.
What do you know about allergies?
I have been training and working in allergy over 15 years. The specialist training process for allergy is a restricted and selective one which follows a national curriculum with international recognition. This gives formal training in food allergy, gastrointestinal and delayed allergy, drug allergy, chronic urticaria, eczema, asthma, venom allergy and immunotherapy. I completed this in 2012 and completed a MSc in Allergy through Imperial in 2014. I have been working part time at St Thomas' Hospital in London for 3 years and no matter how much I study and read, I am still learning from allergy families.
Our team includes specialist allergy and gastro-allergy dietitians and even the non-medical team could probably now qualify for an honorary degree in nutrition!
Do you have a favourite place to work in?
In a quiet place with minimal distractions (the fridge is a huge one) but I find that working in the digital era means being able to work almost anywhere unless a 'switch-off' is planned.
What do you do when you procrastinate?
All the usual suspects - look for something to eat, tidy up, put in some serious social media time, phone a friend ...
Do you have a favourite quote?
If you had an entirely free day to spend on your own doing something for your own pleasure what would you do?
Wait, is this an allergy blog post or a dating questionnaire…?
Do you prefer city, country or coast?
It depends, as I love all three but since having kids there is more of a pull to the coast and water-based fun.
Do you have a favourite book?
Just one?! One of my personal long-standing favourites is ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’ by Milan Kundera. I also have a welcome reading list of food and health related tomes at my bedside.
Are you a morning person?
I can be - if there is coffee involved.
Did you have a favourite television programme as a child?
What is the one thing you would tell your younger self and why?
Don’t be in such a hurry and don’t take anything too seriously. It is not always where you end up, the journey is meaningful too.
Tea or coffee?
Coffee in the morning and tea in the afternoon.
Sweet or savoury?
Salty or tangy beats sweet for me.
What is your favourite meal and why?
Different faves for different occasions and times of day but I do love a porcini mushroom risotto. The first meal my Italian husband cooked me ☺
What did you want to be when you were younger?
A singer. I was in various choirs in my not-so misspent early youth and then spend some misspent years moonlighting in backing vocals and as the university radio station news reader.
What is your favourite time of the day?
Down time in the bath after the kids are in bed - one of the few times I can enjoy a bit of old-fashioned mindfulness.
What would your dream job be and why?
Clinical allergy doctor and innovation digital tech start-up person. The dream part is that it would be great if I could that between 10am and 3pm, with an hour for lunch…
What one bit of advice would you give to someone just starting out in the allergy world?
Allergy is a challenging field exploding with new information. My advice to allergy sufferers would be to find sources you can trust and it does get easier - and to professionals offering diagnostic and allergy management services, it would to keep listening and learning from allergy sufferers and the evidence for better prevention and management as it grows.
How will FoodMaestro help someone?
So many of our allergy patients say they want to be able to choose safe foods more easily but also to feel normal and have more choice.
The FoodMaestro app, helps you decipher complex nutritional labelling without having to read the label. When scanning a barcode or performing a product search, the app presents a sad or smiley face, which indicates if foods are safe. The app is already helping thousands of people cut through the labelling dilemma by checking what is in 100,000+ food and drink products sold in the UK’s major supermarket chains.
Any last words of wisdom?
Please download and give the app a try its Free to use & hopefully be a tool that helps with planning the family shop. More information can be found at http://foodmaestro.me/food-app