Pocket-Size Sensor Checks Your Food For Hidden Gluten
Gluten-free diets have been all the rage as of late for claims of a whole host of health benefits, such as weight loss, increased energy, and a stronger immune system. While scientific evidence for many of these claims is borderline sketchy to completely non-existent, celiac disease is an actual disorder in which the body treats gluten basically like an allergen.
People who suffer from celiac disease or food allergies must alter their lifestyle to exclude the allergens, but there are often circumstances beyond their control, such as eating out. To help consumers determine if a certain food is safe to eat, San Francisco based 6SensorLabs has developed Nima, a portable food sensor that utilizes actual chemistry to test for the presence of gluten.
As this editor suffers from a number of food allergies, he was excited to learn more about Nima, and the 6SensorLabs team was kind enough to invite Scott to their SF office during their Halloween affair to get a demo of Nima. Many of the team members suffer from celiac disease, food allergies, or other food intolerances, so it was easy to share stories about the curse of being a foodie with allergies.
Nima works as follows: you simply place a pea-size sample of food or liquid (excluding alcohol) into the disposable cartridge and screw the top on. The sample drops into the bottom of the chamber which contains the reagent to test for gluten. The cartridge is loaded into the main unit and powered on, and in about two minutes a smiley face or frown face displays to indicate if the food sample contains less or more than 20 parts per million of gluten – the FDA standard to be considered “gluten-free”.
Co-founder and CTO Scott Sundvor also shared plans about a mobile app that he anticipates will launch when Nima starts shipping. The app will allow users to build a personal database of specific foods and restaurants, as well as contribute their readings to the community. This would be hugely beneficial in not only helping others eat out with more confidence, but could also help restaurants encourage proper practices to reduce cross-contamination.
Sundvor was also strangely excited to show us their office fridge, which was filled not with Hot Pockets and ice cream, but shelves of tubes containing actual food samples they’ve collected for testing and validation. Sundvor explained that he wanted Nima to be validated with real-world testing using actual foods that users would eat as opposed to using extracts, chemical analogues, and other substances that one might find in a chemistry lab. We also were able to say hi to Nima’s resident chemists who were already hard at work developing a reagent to test for peanuts and dairy, the next two allergens on 6SensorLab’s “hit list” after gluten (the company hopes to be able to test for these allergens by the end of next year).
6SesnsorLab recently began offering Nima to pre-order for $199 with an anticipated ship date of mid-2016. We dig the design and see lots of potential and hope to get our hands on one to try out soon!
picture by Nima website