Disclaimer – The following opinions are my own. I own a Nima Sensor (which I paid for myself). This is meant to be a discussion, so pease feel free to contribute. Please keep in mind that the FDA has defined gluten free as less than 20ppm (parts per million). Some gluten free certification organizations require foods to be less than this. I am aware that some extremely sensitive celiacs react to 20ppm. Nima has said their chemistry is optimized for 20ppm but occasionally picks up gluten lower than that.
After years of consumers and testing experts asking for the Nima team to release their third party testing data to the public, the Nima team finally has via a webinar (which you can watch HERE). I am concerned and horrified, though not surprised.
A refresher – you can find my previous opinion post about the Nima Sensor HERE where I discuss cost, limitations, sample size, inconsistencies in my person testing experience, and questions about accuracy. All concerns are still valid.
Foods over 20ppm
Nima’s website says “Nima was designed to detect gluten in food samples at 20ppm (parts per million) or above with 99.5% accuracy.” However, about 16 minutes into the webinar, you’ll see a slide that shows foods at 20ppm test positive for gluten 79.5% of the time. Only when we get up to 40ppm does Nima detect gluten 98.7% of the time.
Foods containing 20-40ppm are not safe for those with celiac disease, yet a test with Nima may result in a smiley face.
Foods under 20ppm
In the same slide we see that foods at 10ppm will test positive for gluten 56.4% of the time (we might as well toss a coin). Foods at 5ppm will test positive for gluten 34.6% of the time. We also know from a piece of data that the Nima team previously released – foods less than 2ppm will report ‘gluten found’ 7.8% of the time.
Adding in widespread social media and Nima app factors – my fear is that restaurants and companies that are doing great work for the celiac disease community are having their reputations unfairly tarnished, and Nima is preventing people from eating safe food.
There is no way to know how many ppm of gluten your food contains when testing with Nima – “gluten found” and smiley face could mean anything. I believe the Nima team had best intentions at heart when they began making this gadget, and they continue to say that Nima is another tool in your tool box. However, I continue to ask the questions – Is it an accurate tool? Does it leave you with more answers or more questions?
I truly wish that the Nima team would have released this data before they started selling Nima gadgets. I originally had the highest hopes, but had this data been available I would never have bought one.
It is my hope that consumers, restaurant staff, and company representatives will read this data and become more informed on the gadget’s limitations and accuracy.
Gluten Free Watchdog’s summary of this new data
The Canadian Celiac Association’s opinion on the Nima Sensor -“At the present time, the CCA Professional Advisory Council DOES NOT RECOMMEND that people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity use the NIMA Sensor device to determine the gluten status of a food….”