Test your food — anywhere, anytime.
I was very fortunate to grow up without any allergies. My best friend growing up was allergic to dogs though and that was the first exposure I really had to someone who had to take medication or avoid something altogether because they got sick. I remember hearing more and more as I got older about different food allergies and I have been very thankful that I’ve not had to deal with giving up a food that I enjoy. My attitude shifted 180º when both my nephews ended up being allergic to several different foods.
My nephew, Ben, who is now 3 years old, was identified early as being allergic to dairy, eggs, and most tree nuts. He is especially allergic to peanuts and my brother and sister-in-law had to make a lifestyle change in order to keep both their boys safe from their allergens. They did lots of research to figure out what the best options are for their kids. Most of the time, they will take their own food when they go out just to ensure the boys are safe. For this reason, I am very happy to be testing out the Nima Peanut Sensor.
The Nima Peanut Sensor is a device that allows you to test food specifically for any trace of peanuts. It’s meant to empower people to be able to dine out more often and travel without worrying so much about the ingredients that are in the foods being consumed. Even though the Nima device will test food samples, it’s still suggested that the best course of action is to follow your normal precautious like talking to waitstaff and reading labeling (when available). Nima uses antibody-based chemistry that was developed by MIT scientists. The device is optimized to detect 10 parts per million of peanut protein and above. That is the lowest adverse reaction level observed in patients during clinical research studies (J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2017 May;139(5):1583-1590. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2017.01.030. Epub 2017 Feb 24.).
Nima is fully recognized and funded by the National Institute of Health. A grant from the NIH actually helped to develop the peanut sensor. One really great thing about Nima is that it is actually reimbursable with a Peanut Allergy diagnosis if your health insurance benefits include FSA/HSA reimbursements. In addition to using the sensor device, you can join the community through the companion app and share your testing results and knowledge of dining establishments with others. Nima offers a 60-day risk-free trial period.
The Nima Peanut Sensor system includes the sensor unit, the testing capsules, and the companion app. To get started, you will download the app and then pair the sensor to it. Once it’s paired, all your tests will be saved in the app. Part of the reason you keep the data in the app is so that you can share with others when you find peanut sensitive foods. That way others in your community will know what to avoid. You can use the app without having the sensor and I think this is a very useful tool for parents of children who have peanut allergies. The map shows places where tests have been done with the results. In my area, There only ended up being one location that had been tested.
I found when it comes to testing foods, there is a very specific way it must be done. The first time I tried to test out a piece of food, the sample was too large. I ended up with an error. The sensor is very easy to read. If you have an error, an exclamation point will appear. If there is peanut present, a peanut image will show up and if a smiling face appears then there is no peanut detected. The first sample I used gave me the exclamation point. There were two issues with the sample. First, it was too large and the second was that the cap to the testing capsule was not tightened all the way. The guide for the samples shows the sample size should only be able to the size of a pea. I knew that the sample I used was too large, but I wanted to see what would happen with the test. After the first test, I used a much smaller piece of food and the testing was successful. I was actually surprised at how much vibration was caused by the testing device. It was louder than I expected, too. It wasn’t so noisy that it caused a disturbance, but it wasn’t silent.
I ended up testing three different foods. Two of them were fairly known as far as ingredients, while the third was a bit of an anomaly.
- Lentil Chips – The labeling indicated that it was produced in a peanut-free environment so the likelihood that peanut would be found in the food item was pretty low. TEST RESULT: NO PEANUT
- Peanut Butter Sandwich Crackers – Given the fact that ‘peanut butter’ was in the name of the product, there was a high degree of confidence that peanut was present. TEST RESULT: PEANUT FOUND
- Sara Lee Honey Wheat Bread – This food item was the unknown. There are a lot of ingredients listed on the package (listed below), but peanut was not officially listed. TEST RESULT: PEANUT FOUND
Given that the first two tests included known elements of peanut or absence of peanut, I have a high degree of confidence that the bread testing is accurate.
Sara Lee Honey Wheat Bread ingredients: enriched bleached flour (wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, iron, thiamin mononitrate (vitamin b1), riboflavin (vitamin b2), folic acid), water, honey, whole wheat flour, high fructose corn syrup, yeast, wheat gluten, contains 2% or less of each of the following: wheat bran, calcium sulfate, salt, soybean oil, dough conditioners (may contains one or more of the following: mono- and diglycerides, ethoxylated mono- and diglycerides, sodium stearoyl lactylate, calcium peroxide, datem, ascorbic acid, azodicarbonamide, enzymes), calcium propionate (preservative), distilled vinegar, guar gum, yeast, nutrients (monocalcium phosphate, calcium sulfate, ammonium sulfate and/or calcium carbonate), corn starch, vitamin d3, soy lecithin, milk, soy flour.
I think that the Nima Peanut Sensor is a very worthwhile device for parents of kids with allergies. It really does seem to work and work well. When you cook foods at home, it’s easy to know what the ingredients are, but when you go out to a restaurant, it gets much harder to regulate what your kids are eating. The Nima Peanut Sensor is an investment. The starter kit, which includes the sensor device and 12 testing capsules, retails for $289. The capsules can only be used once and refills cost $72. Since there are only 12 capsules, I would imagine that you could go through them fairly quickly and that’s a hefty ongoing expense. I think you have to weigh the expense versus the amount you would use it. The sensor does work and I can recommend it from that basis.