I have used the Nima Gluten Sensor since it was available in Canada and it is a welcomed addition for me to test food. The main reason I purchased it was because I was travelling a lot and I would have significant language barriers as I was going all around the world. While that was the main reason, I wanted this product, I quickly found out that there are tons of other great scenarios where it is useful.
Gluten Free Test
I love that there are new products coming onto the market and that things may get a little bit easier for people who have celiac or are eating gluten free for other serious health reasons. I was an early adopter for this product, because it has so much potential and will only get better with customer feedback.
Testing for Gluten
The product uses antibody chemistry to test samples of food that you put into the one-time use capsules. What causes the horrible autoimmune response in people with celiac is from the protein in wheat, barley or rye. This tests that protein in the food.
Each capsule will release the chemicals into the food sample and will return an answer to you whether there was gluten found or not in the sample.
How to Test for Gluten
Take the sample of food you wish to test and put it into the capsule. Then you close the capsule and put it into the Nima Gluten Sensor device. You turn it on and then press the button to start the test.
The test takes between 2 and 3 minutes and will return the result of the test to you. The result could be a smiley face which means it is gluten free, Gluten Found if it finds the gluten protein or Test Error. Test errors can happen if the capsule is filled too much with food, so the chemicals do not have enough room in the capsule.
Test Food for Gluten
You can use this tool literally anywhere. You can use it at home if you are not sure if a product has gluten in it. You can use it at a family member’s house if they are telling you that it is gluten free, just to be sure. You can try it out at a new restaurant to see if the food is really gluten free.
Gluten Free Testing
This is a newer product on the market for testing food for gluten. While there are limitations with the product, it also has some advantages that can help you.
If you break it down, it is really a risk assessment. Every time that you eat something, you are taking a risk that you are eating something that will negatively affect your health. Is it a tool for you to use for your risk assessment strategy? It is about being risk aware.
Part of being risk aware is knowing the limitations of the device. These are the limitations that I consider, and you should think if there are other ones for you.
The Sample is Not From the Whole Plate
You only test a small pea-sized amount from your plate. This may be limiting as you could miss a part of your meal where gluten was present. Now that I know the limitation, I can try my best to mitigate the risk. But I cannot entirely eliminate the risk that I will not get a homogenous sample and therefore accurate test. This is not yet possible outside of a lab, so here we are.
My mitigating technique: “Once I identify the pea-sized food sample, I swab the rest of the meal as completely as possible on the sample food.”
You Cannot Test Everything
So, what can you actually test and what can’t you test? Well you can test most food substances, whether they are liquid or solid, but of course there are some exceptions. You cannot test every single thing out there. Here is a list of things that you cannot test:
Beer: You cannot test beer because it goes through a fermentation process and it makes the gluten molecules undetectable.
Pure vinegar: Due to the high levels of acidity, it wrecks the test.
Soya sauce: You cannot test soya sauce because it goes through a fermentation process and it makes the gluten molecules undetectable.
Alcohol: Tests are not accurate because of the distillation process.
Pure xanthan or guar gum: The products that are too gummy cannot be tested.
My mitigating technique: “If I know something has these ingredients in something, there is no point in testing it.”
From what I understand the test can return a false positive or ‘Gluten Found’ when in fact the food is not above the 20 ppm. Nima results are showing products to have a higher percentage of gluten found then many established food testing companies, which is leading people to conclude that they have false positives.
My mitigating technique: “I understand the limitation and if I get a ‘Gluten Found’ result, I am the one making the decision on whether to eat the food. Again, it is all part of my risk assessment strategy. My technique here is understanding that this can happen.’’
What is Your Decision?
This decision is yours to make. I hope for people who need to be on a gluten free diet that products like these get better and better. I am excited to see where it will go to help people in the future. The morale of the story is that this is not your only and final answer to whether you eat something or not. You have to use it in conjunction with reading ingredients where possible, asking many questions at restaurants about ingredients and possible cross contamination issues.
This is ultimately your decision where these limitations are worth it to you. Ultimately, nothing is guaranteed 100% and I think it is better than trusting a cook with good intentions.
Disclosure: The links below are affiliate links. You pay the same price, but I get a commission as well. I only recommend products or services that I like and it helps me deliver free content to my readers.
Gluten in Food
If I find that there is gluten in a food product at home or at a friend’s house, I obviously will not eat it. I will find some alternative items to eat and since I usually have food packed, this is not a problem.
If I am dining out and there is gluten found, I again do not eat it. Most restaurants do not guarantee 100% that it will not have gluten, so I do not make a scene or make crazy demands. But I do ask to speak to the manager and let them know that my device has found gluten in the meal and I will not be able to eat it. I have had great success with this approach and they usually try to get to the bottom of why or how it was cross contaminated.
The reason I like to discuss the issue with the manager is because they can only deal with problems if they know about them. If I left a nasty review on-line, then they wouldn’t be very receptive to take me seriously. But if I talk to them with the goal of them possibly making changes to ingredients or processes, then it makes it safer for someone else. This is the ultimate win-win situation. I want others to have more options and this is how I can do my part to make this happen.
Nima Gluten Sensor
This is currently available in Canada and the United States. Once you have used the product, you can still return it within 60 days. What do you have to lose?
It is an added a peace of mind for me, especially while I travel. It was literally a life saver when I was in countries where I had language barriers and could not communicate with people. There are also cultural differences where the person would want to please me and wouldn’t tell me the truth if it meant saying something had gluten in it. So, it has saved me from eating things with gluten in it.
My Experience Has Been Positive With Nima
I know I have learned a lot from using it. I was making the same errors, so I wanted to summarize them for you so you don’t make them too. Click here for My Top Three Tips When Using the Nima Gluten Sensor.
Brett – Curator of Gluten Free Travel Guides, Products and Lifestyle Advice