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Kitchen Tools & Gadgets

New device can tell if food is really gluten-free, filled with other allergens

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The Nima Sensor can be used to test for the presence of gluten. (6SensorLabs)

More foods are popping up with labels advertising products as gluten or nut free, but can they really be trusted?

A new portable device may revolutionize dining habits by allowing users to quickly scan foods for potential allergens --helping dieters and, in extreme cases, even save lives.

The Nima Sensor is the latest project from San Francisco based 6Sensor Labs. It’s a small, plastic device with the ability to perform complicated scientific food analysis without messy chemicals, reports PSFK.

The device has two components—a reusable sensor that performs the test and a disposable cartridge for food. Diners simply insert a piece of food into a pod and slip it into a side of the triangle device. In about two minutes, a red light will appear to alert user about the presence of an allergen such an egg, gluten, nuts or more.  

Nima's first device will test for gluten and is due out early 2016, with models to test other types of food irritants to come later. Nima will test positive (with 99.5 percent accuracy) for gluten if its sample is 20 parts per million of gluten. Currently, Food and Drug Administration regulations allow for up to 20 ppm  in gluten-free-labeled foods.

This won't be the first device for testing food allergens on the market.  But Nima is much smaller and more discreet than other products. The startup, which was founded by former MIT students, will soon be releasing prices ahead of the product debut—though they are currently accepting pre-orders online.