App lets you check if a banana is "red" or "blue"

Are we really so politically polarized as a nation that our refrigerators are partisan, too? For some people, the answer appears to be a resounding yes.

A new app called BuyPartisan lets you scan barcodes of supermarket items to discover the political leanings of companies that make your favorite foods. The company behind the app, Spend Consciously, says it "allows you to find out whether what you are buying matches your own personal political beliefs."

But do shoppers really want to add another lay of complexity to shopping for cereal and toilet paper? Consumers already check food for calorie counts, real versus artificial sweeteners, whole grain content, sodium levels and serving sizes. Now you can also research whether some CEO decided to support a Democrat or Republican for Congress.

"Now you can bring the stifling joylessness of modern political life to the grocery store," groused The Daily Caller.

The app has received a lot of attention online, but by Thursday night had received only 11 reviews on Apple's (AAPL) iTunes store. "It's great to see where all the money is going," wrote one user. "It makes me think twice before I buy anything."

The Huffington Post noted that the app isn't always accurate. If you scan a Chiquita banana, for example, you'll find donations from people and companies that bear the name Chiquita, but aren't related to the banana grower. Spend Consciously says that will be fixed.

The app also reveals that Kellogg's (K) boss, John Bryant, gave more to Democrats than the CEO of General Mills (GIS). For devoted partisans, that means Democrats can buy Frosted Mini Wheats, Special K and Raisin Bran, while Republicans can go for Cheerios, Trix and Fiber One.

The head of Spend Consciously, Matthew Colbert, told The Washington Post that he hopes users appreciate knowing that a fraction of their grocery bill goes to political contributions. The app uses data from the Center for Responsive Politics, the Sunlight Foundation and the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

Twitter users had a wide range of responses to news about the app this week. "I will be using this," wrote one. "Republican foods only!" Others were more critical. "Is BuyPartisan the worst app in the world?" asked one. "Pretty awful at least."

  • Kim Peterson

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