New health device tests foods for gluten

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There is a device to test foods for gluten right at the table before you attempt to eat it. (KGO-TV)

These days nearly every restaurant and grocery store has at least a few items marked as gluten free. Soon you may not have to just take their word for it. We looked at a device that could help people who are sensitive to certain foods stay healthy.

Shireen Yates used to eat whatever she wanted until college.

"I found out I couldn't eat gluten, dairy, egg or soy and I had never had issues with food before," Yates explained.

Dining out went from a treat to a chore. Yates said she asked one waiter if a food was gluten free and they responded, "How allergic are you?"

And that's how Yates got the idea for the Nima Sensor.

She calls it a tiny laboratory. Closing the lid starts the chemical reaction and a pocket-sized sensor reads the result.

The $200 sensor discovered the snack mix we tested was not gluten free.

"We found that generally one out of five of the gluten-free dishes that we're testing out in restaurants are coming back positive for gluten," Yates said.

The whole idea behind the design is to make it simple enough for even a child to use and in fact, kids could be some of Nima's biggest users.

"Food allergies are 50 percent more among children in the last 15 years," Yates explained.

And after the gluten test hits the market later this year, the company's next project are little jars that test for peanuts and dairy. But each jar is only good once. And at roughly $5 each, CNET's senior associate editor Ashlee Clark Thompson says Nima serves a specific crowd.

Thompson thinks this device is "for folks who have really troublesome or potentially dangerous allergies. It doesn't strike me as something that would be for the, I guess, casual gluten-free person."

Other food sensors use infrared light, but Nima's makers found only a chemical test was sensitive enough for people with celiac disease.

Like a lot of the medical devices at a new exhibit at the Tech Museum, it aims to keep you healthy by keeping you informed.

"You are the person who knows your health best and now you have the potential to be an equal partner with your physician, your caregiver," Tech Museum curator and exhibit developer Michelle Maranowski said.

Yates knows it's just a matter of time before the price of those jars comes down. That'll make people happy.
Related Topics:
healthfoodtechnologyallergieschildren's healthSan Francisco
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