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Five years ago, our lives were turned upside down when things that had always been sources of joy, like eating out and family parties, turned into sources of stress.
Trying to manage life with allergies or coeliac disease can be hard work and there are somany uncertainties. Is the allergen menu correct? Did the waiter listen to you properly? Does your friend really understand what foods could make you ill?
It would be lovely to have a little more reassurance about whether food was safe. A back up plan.
I’d like to introduce the Nima gluten sensor…
It can detect whether there is gluten in your food and in just a few minutes, you can have extra, scientific information at your fingertips. You may have heard of it before as it has been available in America for a few years but has only just hit the UK. There is also a nut sensor available but that has not been launched here yet so I’ll let you know more when it is.
The sensors have been developed by two people who have allergies and intolerances so understand the difficulties. They have taken the chemistry that is usually used in labs to find out the composition in foods, and adapted it to a handheld, portable device. It’s pretty exciting technology! Find out more about the science behind it here.
The Nima gluten sensor is small and easy to use. Watch my video to find out a little more about how it works and see me put it to the test.
Now, the sensor is not a magic bullet. It is not simply a case of using this device and you are safe. Firstly, it should never replace any precautions you would normally take anyway – checking ingredients, asking questions and trusting your instinct. This is just an extra tool to help you feel more confident in your decisions.
It is really effective(96.9% according to Nima’s testing) at picking up gluten above 20ppm (parts per million) that has been evenly distributed throughout the food. This means it will tell you if a batch of cookies has been made with regular flour, if the sandwich you have been served doesn’t have gluten free bread or if your pasta is safe to eat.
The sensor obviously only checks the small piece of food you put into it. So if there is gluten in another element of your meal, it won’t detect it unless you test that too. It is also unlikely to help you pick up cross contamination unless you choose the exact point where croutons have been picked off your salad or a gluten contaminated knife has cut your bread. It can’t pick up some fermented foods like soy sauce as well.
On the other hand,there is a chance the Nima sensor could suggest you avoid eating something that actually could be safe for you. In the UK, food can have up to 20ppm of gluten in it and still be considered gluten free and fine for people with coeliac disease. The sensor doesn’t differentiate though and if it finds any gluten, even below 20ppm, it will give a ‘gluten detected’ result. You can learn more about why Nima took this approach here. It is also more challenging for the sensor to pick up gluten at such low levels and the results aren’t as reliable.
So it has its limitations and it is important to be aware of these.
However, I still think this could be a useful tool to have as part of your management plan. It would be great if you are nervous about eating out and want some extra reassurance, if you want to feel less anxious when your teenager starts socialising without you, or when you go on holiday to bridge any issues with language barriers.
The Nima gluten sensor is quite expensive, as you would expect from something with this level of technology behind it. You can buy a starter pack for £249.99 (currently reduced to £189.99) which includes the sensor and 12 capsules. You can then buy 12 more replacement capsules for £59.99 (currently £54.99), so about £5 each.
At that price, it is not something you are going to use every time you eat! And nor should you. It is important you do not become reliant on the Nima sensor to make all your decisions for you. But when you’re really not sure and you need some extra back up, it is a clever tool to help you manage your diet in the most informed and confident way you can.