By K. Aleisha Fetters for Life by DailyBurn
“Is that really gluten-free?”
“Like, it hasn’t even touched anything that gluten has also touched?”
If that sounds at all like your latest conversation with a waiter, we have good news: A sleek new handheld device from 6SensorLabs will soon let you know if, in fact, that dish really is gluten free—or if you need to send it back and order something else, pronto.
According to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, about three million Americans have celiac disease — an autoimmune disorder that damages the intestines and prevents nutrient absorption when gluten is consumed. For people with celiac disease, it’s important to avoid all gluten, even in trace amounts. If not, they risk facing complications including osteoporosis, thyroid disease and cancer.
Beyond that, as many as 18 million more people are estimated to have non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Though less severe, people with an intolerance to gluten can suffer from a wide range of not-so-fun symptoms, such as digestive issues, joint pain and headaches.
The co-founder and CEO of 6SensorLabs, Shireen Taleghani Yates, learned about the importance of avoiding gluten the hard way. “I found out in college that I was extremely allergic to gluten, and it became challenging to eat out, be social, and actually stress-free about the food I was ordering,” she says. Plus, during her five years in sales and marketing at Google and YouTube, she had to dine with clients a lot, meaning a lot of gluten snuck its way onto her plate. “I got to a point where I just felt awful all of the time,” she recalls.
Is There Gluten in That?
While working on her MBA at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston, Yates and fellow MIT student Scott Sundvor decided to develop a device that would put gluten-free-diners’ woes to rest at last.
The device, which the company plans to begin selling to consumers in late 2015, uses established chemistry-based technology to determine when a food sample contains the protein gluten.
Here’s how it works: You scoop a tiny bit of food into a disposable pod, place that in the pocket-sized sensor, and — in a couple minutes or less — voilà. You have your g-free or non g-free verdict. You can use it in restaurants or even with packaged food. While the cost of the device hasn’t been announced yet, Yates says it will be accessibly priced.
What’s more, 6SensorLabs is also developing a mobile app that will let you share what you’re testing — both giving kudos to restaurants that serve “gluten-free” food that really is allergen-free, and naming those that don’t. By combining user results, the app will create a useful (and much-needed) map of gluten-free foods and restaurants worldwide.
And, in case you were wondering, the technology can be applied to just about any food allergy. The company is already brainstorming what it can detect next.
To learn more about 6SensorLabs or preorder yours, head to 6sensorlabs.com.