This post about the Nima Sensor contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosures and disclaimers.
The Nima Sensor has won over my celiac heart.
In case you’re not familiar with it, the Nima Sensor is a portable gluten detecting device that allows you to test your food for gluten. If you’ve ever wondered if that pancake or pizza you ordered at your favorite restaurant is really gluten-free, you can test it with your Nima Sensor and know for sure.
That’s why it’s no surprise that Nima Sensor’s tagline is “bringing peace of mind to mealtime” – that is exactly what the Nima Sensor does for me.
Eating out is often fraught with anxiety for those of us who cannot eat gluten… and Nima knows it.
Indeed, the research published by Nima Sensor shows that 35 percent of meals eaten at restaurants contain gluten. Holy cow! That’s a lot of gluten being served to gluten-free diners, and it means one in EVERY three meals labeled as “gluten-free” or “gluten-free friendly” are not actually gluten-free at all. Yikes!
My community constantly tells me that their number one challenge is eating out. It’s scary to trust others to create a safe meal for you. If you fret about eating out gluten free, you should definitely invest in a Nima Sensor of your own.
Let me share more about Nima and how it can help ease your worry at meal time.
(PS – For more tips on how to safely eat out gluten-free, please read this ebook, Eating Out Gluten Free.)
The Science Behind the Nima Sensor
I don’t pretend to understand all the science behind this gluten detecting device, but in a nutshell the Nima Sensor test capsules contain specific antibodies that bind to the toxic portion of the gluten protein known as the “33-mer fragment of gluten,” and which is responsible for causing an autoimmune response.
Nima independently tested the accuracy of its gluten detecting device and found:
- For foods containing gluten at or above 20 ppm, Nima reported “gluten found” 99 percent of the time.
- For foods containing below 2 ppm, Nima reported “gluten found” 7.8 percent of the time.
It’s IMPORTANT to understand that the Nima Sensor detects ALL gluten, not just 20 parts per million (ppm), the legal limit set forth by the FDA. This means Nima has a zero tolerance for gluten in any product that should be gluten-free.
Keep in mind that the FDA standards for gluten-free labeling requires products to contain less than 20 ppm of gluten, a threshold that is widely debated since those with celiac disease should consume zero gluten. I encourage you to read this article about the 20 ppm debate.
Bottom line, the Nima Sensor will report if it finds ANY gluten, not just greater than 20 ppm.
Life With Nima
Prior to using the Nima Sensor to test my food, I had to rely on chefs and waitstaff to get gluten-free right.
While I am an optimist, I’m also a realist.
I know that A LOT can go wrong between the time I place my order and the time when my meal is actually delivered to my table. I also know nobody knows how to do gluten-free like me.
For example, does a chef realize he cannot use the same knife to cut bread and then cut tomatoes? Does a chef realize that he cannot cook my gluten-free pasta in the same water as the regular pasta? Does the chef know that couscous and tabouli are indeed not gluten-free?
Before the Nima Sensor, I would have to hope for the best and trust that everyone handling my food knows what they’re doing. However, after getting a device of my own, I feel more empowered than ever. I know whether or not gluten is lurking inside my food.
Plus, the Nima Sensor gives me more control over what I’m eating.
When I pull out this nifty gluten detecting device and tell my waiter I’m going to “test my food,” I know he is going to put in the extra effort to give me a safe meal. It’s almost like having a sign on my door that says “This house secured by ADT” – it’s a deterrent for someone to enter your house without your permission. I love the transparency the Nima Sensor offers – it gives me a small peek inside my meal!
Furthermore, if Nima finds gluten in my food, I can show the restaurant manager my findings (yes, I have proof!) and hold them accountable. I’m not trying to get anyone in trouble; rather, I’m trying to show them that something is not right and give them the opportunity to make it right.
How to Use the Nima Sensor
Now let’s talk about how to use your Nima Sensor to test your food for gluten:
(1) Insert a small pea-sized sample of your food into the Nima test capsule. Be sure to use clean hands or a clean utensil.
(2) Seal the capsule (turn until the green seal breaks and is no longer visible). The cap should line up perfectly with the test capsule.
(3) Insert the test capsule into the sensor and press the button to begin the test. You’ll hear the sensor working and even shaking a bit.
(4) After about three minutes, you will see the test result. It will be either a smiley face if it found no gluten, or it will say, “Gluten Found,” on the display if the item has gluten in it.
(5) Discard the test capsule after use (they are single use capsules) and be sure to record to your test in the Nima app so others can see how that restaurant (or brand) fared.
Nima Sensor Limitations
The Nima Sensor is not a replacement for common sense nor is it foolproof.
One limitation is that the Nima Sensor cannot detect fermented foods, like soy sauce, barley malt or beer. Fermentation breaks down the gluten protein so it’s undetectable by the Nima Sensor, however, the product still contains gluten. I once tested a fun-size 100 Grand Bar with my Nima Sensor and while the Nima Sensor showed a smile, the product contained barley malt. The fun-sized candy didn’t have an ingredient list, but after Googling it, I realized it was not safe to eat after all. This exercise was a good reminder to me to ALWAYS READ FOOD LABELS before eating anything. The Nima test, alone, is not enough.
Another limitation is that Nima is not validated for testing medications or beauty products. Despite this limitation, I once tested a Zyrtec tablet.
On top of that, Nima can only test a pea-sized portion of your food, not the full dish. This means you won’t know if your entire dish is without cross contamination, you’ll only know the result of a small portion of the dish.
Remember, the Nima Sensor is NOT A REPLACEMENT for reading labels, ordering sensibly and having a good conversation with the person handling your food. Even if you have a sensor, you must ALWAYS disclose that you cannot eat gluten, and that you do not want your food coming in cross contact with gluten at any time.
What Happens When Nima Finds Gluten
A lot of people ask me what do when the Nima Sensor displays, “Gluten Found.”
It has happened to me several times and each time I have handled the situation a little better.
One memorable “Gluten Found” moment came at the restaurant, Snooze, when my “gluten-free friendly” pancake actually contained gluten! I did the test on Facebook Live and you can watch it in my article about Snooze’s not-so-gluten-free menu.
When Nima finds gluten, I tell my waiter what happened, show her the evidence (always snap a photo before the display turns off after about 30 seconds), and ask her if she can make me something else or take this off my check as I won’t be eating it.
(In the case of Snooze, I ran the test twice, just to be certain.)
It’s always disheartening when Nima finds gluten, especially when I’m out with friends. Everyone wants to eat their meal, but they feel funny knowing I cannot eat alongside them. Trust me, it’s awkward for everyone, but as the person with celiac disease, I have no choice but to push through the pain.
When Nima finds gluten, I also like to have a discussion with the manager. Maybe there is something that went awry or a learning opportunity for the staff to make some changes to how allergy orders are handled.
Sometimes we uncover honest mistakes and sometimes we find more pervasive issues.
Maybe the staff didn’t realize they shouldn’t cook gluten-free waffles in the same waffle maker used to cook regular waffles, and that they shouldn’t toast gluten-free bread in the same toaster used to toast regular wheat bread.
Maybe my Nima test will offer such teachable moments so the next gluten-free diner can get a safe meal. I have found, more often than not, that restaurants want to make things right.
Eating out is a one of the biggest challenge facing people with celiac disease and anyone who cannot eat gluten. The Nima Sensor makes it a little easier, in the end, to (literally) stomach a meal out.
And above all else, common sense should prevail.
Order foods that are as naturally gluten-free as possible – like a burger (lettuce wrapped), omelette, salad with grilled chicken, steak and potatoes, etc. Avoid things that are deep fried or involve a lot of handling and preparation like pizza and pancakes.
If you crave things like pizza and pancakes, get those items at certified gluten-free restaurants (California Pizza Kitchen or Pizza Hut come to mind) or simply eat such foods at home where you control the preparation and ingredients.
Why the Controversy?
A lot of my gluten-free blogger friends poo-poo the Nima Sensor, saying that it doesn’t go far enough in testing food and gives people a false sense of security.
I have to admit, while the Nima Sensor has limitations (and I’ve laid them out above), it is an amazing tool to have in my toolkit. These negative-nillys seriously don’t know what they’re talking about!
As I see it, Nima is another tool (and a fantastic tool to boot!) that helps me and my fellow celiacs eat safely outside the home.
Yes, I agree with the naysayers, it’s not perfect.
However, Nima does an amazing job at making eating out much more transparent, and restaurants are taking note too (several restaurant managers told me they want to get one to test their food themselves!).
Also, I love the power the Nima Sensor gives me. I don’t have to take anyone’s word or listen to someone say, “Oh, yeah, I think it’s gluten-free.” I can know, with a much greater level of certainty, whether or not my meal is gluten-free.
Plus, like I said before, when the staff knows I’m testing my food, I believe they take more care in preparing it.
So if you have a negative outlook on the Nima, just remember, this is a company that is trying to make life easier for those of us who cannot eat gluten. The Nima Sensor will continue to improve its technology and it will soon be a must-have product for anyone who cannot eat gluten… and those bloggers who criticize it just might have to get one someday!
Where Can I Get the Nima Sensor?
I highly recommend getting a Nima Sensor of your own. You can purchase one at NimaSensor.com.
If you buy the Nima Sensor Starter Kit (or a Peanut Sensor – new in 2018!), you can use my $15 off coupon code – GOODFORYOU18. This coupon code expires 12/31/18 and is only good for one use per customer. Shop by CLICKING HERE.
I know, I know, the Nima Sensor is expensive. I wish it was cheaper – and I know as the technology improves, the costs will come down.
However, I personally think health is wealth, and at the end of the day, the Nima Sensor lessons my need for doctor’s visits and sick days because I’m getting accidentally glutened so little. Hopefully one day the Nima Sensor will be an approved medical device and covered by insurance for those with diagnosed gluten-spectrum disorders.
I tested eight POPULAR Kirkland Brand products from Costco using my Nima Sensor. Download my Kirkland Gluten-Free Report for free to find out how these products stood up against the Nima Sensor!
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