SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (CBS) For people with food allergies, eating out can be a challenge. Now new technology is giving peace of mind.
Jolene Warren was diagnosed with celiac disease about a year ago. "I had severe anemia and my red blood count was terrible, and I had no oxygen going into my blood," Warren said.
Celiac is an autoimmune disease triggered by gluten -- found in wheat, barley, and rye. It's commonly controlled through a strict diet. "Food was my social activity and since then I eat as much as I can at home because that's my safe spot," Warren said.
But now this pocket-size gluten detector is helping her to eat out more and worry less. The device from Nima labs scans a sample of food placed in a disposable capsule.
"It's got a happy face, alright," Warren said,
A smile shows its safe. A wheat icon means gluten was detected. Nima researchers are now creating devices for other common food allergies. "We're developing a test for peanuts, for dairy, for tree nut -- eventually anything you care about, we wanna give you that instant information in the palm of your hand," said Shireen Yates, Nima's CEO.
Still, Nima officials admit it's not a 100-percent guarantee. While the tested sample may be safe, that doesn't mean the entire meal is gluten free.
Dietitian Emily Luxford thinks the technology is helpful, but worries users may become too dependent. "And so they don't know how to use the proper tools of asking questions, communicating with restaurants, or reading labels, and then they feel like they can't actually make a choice without a device."
Warren uses her detector at least 2 to 4 times a week. "I don't go anywhere without my tester to make sure that I'm safe," she said.
An added layer of security helping her cope with her condition.
The device does not require FDA approval. It costs about $300, and each single use capsule runs about $5 dollars.