Can Your Smartphone Detect Food Allergies?

My mom is a third grade teacher and she frequently talks about the children in her class.  Aside from the cute stories she tells about elementary school mishaps, her tales of childhood food allergies always strike me as interesting.  It seems that food allergies and intolerance among children are on the rise.  No nuts for some kids, forget gluten for others, some don't consume dairy and other children are banned from sugar.  In the cafeteria at her school there is even a 'peanut free' table for kids with nut allergies.  Perhaps a new smartphone app could rescue these poor children banished to the 'peanut free' zone of the cafeteria.

Inventor Aydogan Ozcan is working on perfecting the 'iTube', a device that attaches to a smartphone allowing it to detect food allergens.  This new device transforms the common smartphone into a lab quantifying the amount of a specific food such as peanuts in a parts-per-million measure.  Results are stored in an online database which allergy sufferers can keep private or share with the public.  

Although innovative, the iTube is not a miracle device.  Testing foods for allergens still requires some work with this new invention.  To use the iTube, food first must be ground and mixed in a test tube with chemicals.  The test tube is then attached to the iTube device which uses LED lights and the smartphone camera to analyze the sample.  The entire process takes 20 minutes making it somewhat cumbersome.  

Despite the time commitment required by the iTube device, many allergy sufferers and parents of children with severe food allergies will find this device helpful.  Others may prefer to continue relying on reading labels and questioning servers in restaurants about ingredients.  

Once on the market, nurse practitioners should consider informing their patients about this product as it has the potential to relieve anxiety and prevent serious allergic reaction among food allergy sufferers.