Is Your Food Safe to Eat? How Portable Sensors Can Help

Dining out can be a nightmare for people who have food allergies or sensitivities because there is no way of knowing what’s really in your food—until now.

Meet the Nima, a portable food sensor designed to detect gluten – for now – says the company’s CEO Shireen Yates, who started 6Sensorslabs while attending graduate school at MIT.

“We’re starting with gluten and extending to peanut and dairy in 2017,” she tells “We’re really interested in helping people better understand what’s actually in their food.”

Yates is one of the 20 million Americans who are estimated to have a gluten intolerance or full blown Celiac disease.

“I found eating out super stressful,” she adds. “So when I met my founding team, we really wanted to create something that is on the spot, at the table and will quickly tell you whether or not the food that you’re trying to avoid is in that sample.”

Here’s how it works: Place a sample of unfermented food or drink into a disposable cartridge that is then inserted into the device, and in about two minutes you get a result.

“The sad face means there’s gluten and the smiley face means you’re good to go,” says Yates.


The device is currently on pre-order and is expected to be available for consumers in a few months. The price is $249 for a sensor and $3.99 per disposable capsule.

“We’re developing to 99.5% accuracy. We detect gluten at 20 parts per million, so we’re gonna tell you it’s in there,” she added.

6Sensorslabs says about 20% of the restaurant dishes they tested that were labeled gluten free came up positive for gluten. “That really stacked up with what consumers were telling us too. They said they usually get sick one out of four or five times when they’re eating outside the home.”

The good news is that less than 5% of packaged gluten free products had traces of gluten in them.

The device is also connected to your phone through an app, so you can tag what you ate and where you ate it and share that with people who have similar dietary portfolios. The portable gadget isn’t a medical device or FDA-approved, but rather designed to give a consumer an extra layer of data before taking a bite into the unknown.

Yates hopes the Nima will eventually be a part of everyone’s dining experience in the future.

“You will see it as common as utensils. You will see a Nima on every table. You will see people carry around disposals.”

The startup is only three years old, but will continue to grow along with consumer demand for transparency.

“We’re going to get smarter and smarter about how food affects us. We absolutely have to give and provide better data so we can make more informed decisions about how we eat.”