Shireen Yates, the company co-founder and chief executive, explains, “Even when you see labeled menu items, you are still playing Russian roulette. There is still cross contamination, there is miscommunication, you just never know.”
The NIMA device can analyze any type of food or beverage for gluten down to 20 parts per million, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) classification for gluten free products.
One puts a pea-size sample of the food in a cartridge and then loads it into the device. Within two minutes, the device measures the chemical reaction between antibody proteins and gluten.
The antibodies bind to the presence of gluten if it is present in the sample, triggering a change that a sensor picks up on. If there is no gluten, a happy face appears; if gluten was found, a wheat icon and message that reads “gluten found” will appear.
NIMA is launching an iPhone application to complement the device, allowing users to share their results.
The company is already planning its next generation device, which will detect milk and peanut allergens. Since an estimated 15 million people in the United States have some form of food allergy and their numbers are rising, their device is unquestionably answering a vital need.