Dining

Test (the) Kitchen

New portable device identifies whether or not a meal is really gluten free
Photo: Tasting Table
Pizza

For the celiacs of the world, dining out can be stressful. Though many restaurants and bakeries have stepped up their game by offering gluten-free menu options or even gluten-free facilities, the question can still linger whether something meets the standard. MIT start-up Nima wants to ease this anxiety with its new portable, highly sensitive gluten sensor that detects if food is safe to eat.

The three-inch-tall sensor is small enough to fit in a pocket or purse. To use the device, users add a pea-sized amount of food or liquid into the one-time-use disposable capsule, preloaded with Nima’s proprietary chemistry, which then gets inserted into the device. Within two to three minutes, users have a trustworthy yes or no answer to whether or not their food is OK for consumption.

There’s an app component where each set of test results gets automatically recorded. Here, users can enter information about where and what they ate, and whether food passed the test.

Photo: Courtesy of Nima

According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, the disease is estimated to affect one in every 100 people around the world. In an article published by MIT News, the chief product officer for NIMA, Scott Sundvor, writes that the intention of the product is to create “a peace of mind at mealtime. . . . Right now, we don’t know what’s in our food, whether it is allergens, pesticides or other harmful chemicals,” he says. “There’s not a good way to get that data. We want to give people the ability to understand their food better and how it affects their health.”

Next year, the company plans to release two new sensor devices for both peanut and dairy allergies. The portable gluten tester is available for preorder now and is expected to ship fall 2016.

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