I hardly ever use my Nima allergen sensor. I’m still glad I bought it.

Popular Science | 8/10/2017 | Staff
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It doesn’t help that the sensor in question is surprisingly loud. It whirs and clicks as it processes the requisite pea-sized lump of food (which I never managed to fit into the capsule without making a mess). There are tiny prongs inside the chamber designed to hold the food in place, but to me they just seemed to get in the way. And it never held enough, anyway.

To test a burger, I had to choose whether I thought the bun or meat was more likely to be contaminated, since chunks of both would be too large to fit. I could test each separately, but the capsules cost $6 a pop. Any dish with more than a couple components seemed impossible to test fully.

Minutes - Test - Base - Table - Time

You also have to wait several agonizing minutes for the test to finish. The base must sit undisturbed on your table the whole time, like a triangular beacon informing everyone nearby that you are special. It’s attention-grabbing in a way I think most people with allergies strive their hardest not to be.

And then, perhaps worst of all, what happens if it finds gluten? Do I send the food back? I’d have to explain to my waiter—who I imagine is already annoyed—that I have this little device that has informed me their food which claims to be gluten-free is in fact, not. That I can’t eat this dish now. That I’m so truly sorry. If the source of gluten is cross-contamination, I have no idea how they’d even go about preparing an option that I could safely eat, nor any idea if I’d feel comfortable eating there at all. I probably wouldn’t, or at least wouldn’t want to trouble anyone for another plate, which would leave me to smell other people’s food and salivate in silence.

Ways

In some ways, I...
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