You might already put your smartphone or tablet to work in the kitchen by using it to display recipes or play YouTube videos showing how to chop an onion or cook a dish. But you can also use these devices to help ensure that the food you buy, eat and store is good for you, safe and free from unwanted chemicals and other ingredients. All it takes is a few minutes to download these free apps. Each offers a different set of tools to help keep your family healthy, happy and well fed.

Fooducate

This app rates a range of foods from A to D. The coolest feature: Use your phone or tablet’s camera to scan the barcode on a food item and the a

pp pulls up its rating. Then you can click through to learn the reason behind the score. For example, Little Debbie Swiss Rolls get a D because they have 7 teaspoons of sugar per serving, contain trans-fats and artificial colors, are high in saturated fats and have the additive TBHQ.

Before you go the grocery store, you can browse food ratings from a variety of categories to help you put together your shopping list. There’s also a helpful “Daily Tip” section that offers articles on food safety topics such as “High Fructose Corn Syrup More Toxic than Sugar … for Females.”  The app is free for Android and iOS.

fooducate app screenshot (Photo: Michael Franco)

Is My Food Safe?

Need to know if that roast is cooked to a safe temperature? Not sure if the chicken broth you’ve had in the fridge for two weeks is still OK to eat? This app will help you sort it all out.

From the home screen, you have three buttons to choose from. Click on “Is It Done Yet?” and you can scroll through the meat categories to find safe cooking temperatures. Choose “Time To Toss?” and you’ll discover how long you can keep foods in your refrigerator or freezer before it’s time to throw them out. The third button takes you to a quiz called “Is My Kitchen Safe?” Here you can click around an image of a kitchen to see how well you do on food handling questions. For example, should the proper temperature for a home refrigerator be below 40 degrees F? Download the app for Android or iOS to find out.

foodsafe app screen shot (Photo: Michael Franco) 

True Food

This app comes from the Center for Food Safety, a nonprofit public interest group that seeks to limit harmful food production technologies and promotes organic and sustainable agriculture. It’s a handy guide to genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, in food. GMOs are created when foods, such as ears of corn, have their genetic material altered by scientists to achieve a certain result, such as pest resistance or hardiness.

There has been much debate about whether GMOs pose a health risk, but many people choose to avoid them. You can go to this app, select the category of food you’re interested in and read an overview of the current state of the industry regarding GMO ingredients in that food group. If you click on the “list” tab you’ll see foods categorized based on whether they do, don't or might contain GMO ingredients, along with contact information for the company in cases where the use of GMOs is unclear. Available for Android and iOS.

true food app screenshot (Photo: Michael Franco)

HDScores

If you’re interested in food safety, you probably run a clean kitchen — and you hope the restaurants you frequent do, too. This app for Apple and Android devices can help you find out. It provides health department ratings and reports on restaurants across the country. The restaurants are highlighted via pins on a zoomable map. The pins are color-coded to indicate the restaurant’s rating, with red being low and blue, high. Once you find the restaurant you’re interested in, click to get an overview of its inspection history. Then click through to find details on any violations it has received.

The app makers say that they’ve compiled more than 3 million inspection reports and 9 million violations from U.S. establishments.

HD Scores app screenshot (Photo: Michael Franco)

Michael Franco is a science and technology writer who secretly wishes he was an astronaut. His work has appeared in CNET, HowStuffWorks.com and Discover Magazine.