4 October 2015

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 October 4, 2015
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I had the pleasure of being invited to an intimate preview and demonstration for 6 Sensor Labs new Nima Sensor – a portable device that allows consumers to test foods for gluten (at 20 PPM or less).  You might have heard about Nima before as there was a lot of buzz when they first announced their product and secured funding for development.  6 Sensor Labs CEO Shireen Yates was on-hand at the event to demo the product and answer questions about the product. She (and pretty much everyone at 6 Sensor Labs) has food allergies or dietary restrictions of some sort – so this is personal for them because they understand first-hand what it is like to live with a food allergy or condition which requires ingredient avoidance.

Listen, I completely understand that this first generation of Nima might not be the be-all end-all but it is a solid start in creating a new category – which is exactly what they are doing.  After meeting Shireen and some of her team I do know that this is indeed only the start for them as Nima will continue to morph and address a range of potential allergens and eventually you might even be able to order a single device to test for whatever allergens you might require.

Nima is a simple to use portable food tester which is really as easy as:

  1. Place the sample of food to be tested into a disposable test pod (closing it will actually grind the sample for analysis). Yes, you can test multiple items (think a few samples from the same plate) at the same time so long as you do not over-fill the test pod chamber.
  2. Place the pod in the actual device.
  3. Wait a couple of minutes for a smiley face (under 20 PPM of gluten) or a frowny face (more than 20 PPM).

 
The unit itself charges via a USB connection making it easy to charge while on the go.
 


 
Now Nima is still very much in a testing phase as they continue to run the device through its paces.  While it was great to see the device in action there are still many unknowns as to how it will be received not only by consumers but also restaurants and companies – as is the case with any new technology.  Another guest at the event raised the question as to whether restaurants would become targets of overzealous testers or will they be held accountable should they choose to offer gluten-free options that might not, for whatever reason, be at the 20 PPM or less level.  The Nima team mentioned that they are working on an educational component to let restaurants know that this technology is coming and what it means for them.

The team tested all of the gluten-free nibbles that they had catered for the event and two containers of food (out of many) actually failed and were not served.  Additionally they mentioned that the caterer was actually thankful for the results because he often caters gluten-free and in this case it was a gluten-free wrap he had sourced that did not pass.  It wasn’t as though he was pulling a fast one or anything but had a supplier that didn’t meet the mark.  That is where a device like this could help provide an additional-level of security easily allowing for testing of items before they make their way to consumers’ plates.

Do I think that I would carry a Nima device with me every time I dine out – likely not.  I most definitely would use it to test delivery foods I frequently indulge in or to test new products or prepared foods.  I would also 100% toss it in in my carry-on while traveling to have additional piece of mind while on the road.  That is the true appeal of Nima – it is tailored to how you want to use it. I often say that I live my celiac life on my terms and while celiacs are united under the same common gluten-free umbrella, we all have different takes on what being celiac means to us and how we live our celiac lives. This could not be clearer than at the event which featured such a diverse cross-section of bloggers and each of us has our own unique take on living with the disease.

I have been living with a celiac disease diagnosis for almost twenty years now (okay, now I feel old) and have learned that no dining or food experience can be 100% all the time. Mistakes happen and as a result we sometimes get glutened every now and then – though personally it has been years for me. We do the best we can with the tools we have. Having an additional check that we can rely on when needed is definitely most appreciated.

We still do not yet know at what price point it will enter the market but details will be released closer to launch which is slated for the spring of 2016.  I do know that the device will come with three test pods and additional refills will come in packs of twelve.

I will definitely be posting updates once the launch date and pricing are announced so stay tuned. I also look forward to trying out the device for myself once it becomes available to put it through a real-life celiac test. In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more about Nima Sensor, check out their frequently asked questions and find out how you can get on the waitlist for the device.


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