Device tests food, air for allergens to keep you safe

NIMA Sensor (Source: WMC Action News 5)
NIMA Sensor (Source: WMC Action News 5)

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - We all know of medical devices that can be carried to help stop an allergic reaction. But, what if you could prevent one from happening in the first place?

Companies are developing devices designed to test the food you eat or even the air you breathe to determine if allergens are present.

Celiac sufferer Torrey Freeman says it happens all the time. She orders food that is presented as being "gluten free," but she still ends up getting sick.

"Just going on someone's word is really scary," Freeman said.

Now, whenever she eats out she carries a device, called a NIMA Sensor, designed to test for gluten.

"Having this sensor gives me that peace of mind when I test the food," Freeman said.

If airborne allergens are more your concern, the TZOA "Enviro-Tracker" measures air quality to help you avoid pollution.

There's also a prototype for an Allergy Amulet, slated to hit the market next year. It will use a disposable test strip to test for traces of peanuts, tree nuts, and dairy in food.

"Within a minute, it will tell the user if a presence or absence of the allergen is detected," explained Meg Nohe, the mother of a peanut allergic child who helped develop the Allergy Amulet. "When other people are preparing your food, you don't know what's on their hands, you don't know what counter top it's touched or you can't read the labels. So, that's where the Allergy Amulet is going to be a huge benefit."

The co-founder of the Food Allergy Science Initiative says she sees these devices as promising—but would like to see "real validation studies" to prove their efficacy.

Both NIMA Sensor and the Allergy Amulet said third party-testing is in the works.

The allergy group also cautions about "cross contamination" issues and possible "human error."

Nohe agrees a tester is only one tool in the safety tool belt.

"It's important for users to think of it as a supplement and not a substitute to what I would say are standard precautionary measures," Nohe said.

Freeman is still careful, but loves her sensor.

"To save me from being sick when I'm out with my children and my family is such a wonderful thing," Freeman said.

The sensors range from $100 to nearly $300 and some require test strips, which are sold separately.

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