Boy haven’t we all wished we had something that told us not to eat a food we thought was gluten free but really wasn’t? Whether a food is cross contaminated, gluten was accidentally added to it, or it was gluten-full and someone told you it was gluten free, these moments happen. When they do, people with celiac, non-celiac gluten sensitivity and a wheat allergy pay for it with some reaction ranging from uncomfortable to downright dangerous.
Short of buying your own ELISA test strips, or making your own food every day, what do you do to get out and be social and eat? There are two interesting solutions out there:
Sniffing out Gluten
Hollie Dennis has a Beuceron named Elias. Detecting gluten in food is what he is trained to do. Interviewed recently for the Missourian newspaper, Dennis explained she has celiac disease and even being exposed to just a small amount of gluten could leave her sick for weeks.
Elias underwent training as a puppy in the US and eventually went to Slovenia for 3-month extensive training from a “scent work specialist” there. Dennis brought him home and he has been detecting whether a meal is safe for her ever since. According to the Missourian article, Dennis puts a plastic cover over the food in question and he will take a sniff, then bite the cover if it is not safe, and lick the cover if it is safe.
Because Dennis was friends with the breeder, she was able to get Elias, fully trained, for $3,000-$4,000. The Missourian reports usually a dog that can detect a food allergen costs in the range of $5,000-$7,000.
Elias and owner, Hollie Dennis, will actually visit Bloomington, Minn. on Wednesday, July 23rd. He will visit the Celiac Center of Minnesota’s Gluten Detectives’ Camp.
Scanning for Gluten
Technology in the works right now could eventually allow you to scan your food to detect gluten any time, any where. According to Entrepreneur.com, 6SensorLabs is working on a device that would scan your food and let you know if there is gluten in it. CEO Shireen Taleghani Yates cannot have gluten and wanted to figure out a way to help people with food allergies. “I wanted to create a stress-free way for people to enjoy eating socially… an opportunity to have an extra assist when you go out to eat, to put the control back in your hands,” Yates told Entrepreneur.com.
This device scans for gluten proteins and quickly tells you if it is safe to consume. They are working on the look of the device too, saying it should be about half the size of an iPhone but a bit thicker. They want to make it easy to use and to carry.
When I chatted with Yates via email earlier today, she described this device as one more thing to use to protect yourself. “We see our product as a supplement to what people already do – simply an extra data layer to help you make a more informed decision about eating. People have told us the device would make them more confident to try new places to eat out.”
No price on this scanning device yet. But they hope to have it available to purchase through their website by summer of 2015. Eventually, the plan is to make similar devices for other food allergens like shellfish and nuts.