Devices for testing for gluten

Katarina Mollo MEd, RDN, LDN
Q: What do you think of at home gluten testing devices such as the Nima?

Answer


At this time, we do not endorse or recommend any home lateral flow devices such as the Nima Sensor or EZ Gluten for testing foods for gluten as they have shown to produce a high margin of inconsistent results such as false negatives. Tricia Thompson at Gluten Free Watchdog has written numerous articles about the Nima device and its inconsistent test results (1).

The Nima Sensor was found to be unable to detect gluten in samples over 20 parts per million (ppm) 20% of the time for foods between 20 ppm – 40 ppm. (The limit for foods to be considered gluten-free is less than 20 ppm gluten.) In addition, it may give a “gluten found” result for foods that contain below 20 ppm. It is not a quantitative test, so it will not show you the amount of gluten in the food tested (1). Therefore, the device could lead to people exposing themselves to gluten as well as limiting themselves unnecessarily.

Apart from the inconsistent results, some other concerns are:

  • Lateral flow at home devices can only test a small amount of food. If you are testing a food that has potential gluten exposure in patches (for example, a steak that has been cooked on a grill which may have gluten present), the device might not pick up the gluten. For accurate testing you would need to test the entire meal.
  • At home devices also cannot test all foods for gluten. According to the Nima Partners website, the Nima Sensor may not pick up gluten from:

Fermented foods such as beer 

Hydrolyzed foods such as soy sauce and malt extract/ flavoring 

Alcohol 

Pure xanthan or guar gum

  • These devices have not been tested or approved by the FDA, therefore they are considered a “gadget.”
  • These devices are quite expensive, and each test requires a new test capsule. The Nima Sensor is $219.99 and a pack of six capsules are $39.99 (as of October 2022).
  • These at home devices may provide a false sense of security if people rely solely on the test results instead of reading labels or asking questions about ingredients and prep methods when eating away from home.

At this time, there are no reliable at home tests for people with celiac disease. For reliable food testing, we recommend ELISA testing at a reputable lab. However, this is not feasible for most people with celiac disease. In the end, it is up to each individual to decide if they feel like a tester is valuable to them. However, anyone using one needs to take into consideration the limitations of the test, as well as continue asking questions about ingredients and prep methods when dining out.

References:

  1. Gluten Free Watchdog. Updated Position Statement on the Nima Senor for Gluten. Gluten Fee Watchdog Website. https://www.glutenfreewatchdog.org/news/gluten-free-watchdogs-updated-position-statement-on-the-nima-sensor-for-gluten/
  2. Nima Partners. Frequently Asked Questions. Nima Partners Website. https://nimapartners.com/a/faq. 2022.

Reviewed October 21, 2022.

Note: This information is provided by NCA and Katarina Mollo MEd, RDN, LDN, NCA's Director of Education. This information is meant for educational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for personalized medical advice or replace any medical advice provided directly to you by your health care provider. No liability is assumed by the NCA or Katarina Mollo, MEd, RDN, LDN by providing this information.

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