Food allergens to be detected by smart phone technology

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 18th December 2012

Food allergens can now be detected at laboratory quality with the invention of the iTube, a small device that attaches to a standard smart phone.

US researchers at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science created the iTube to be used in conjunction with the iTube smart phone application to detect any type of food allergen in a product.

Consumer protection laws in America are responsible for the regulation of labelling on foods. However, it is believed that the new technology can prevent allergic reactions from cross-contamination or unpackaged foods.

UCLA researchers tested the iTube’s effectiveness for traces of peanuts in commercially available cookies in the United States. The research determined that the peanut allergen was not only present, but the iTube could determine how much peanut extract was present in the cookies.

The researchers said that the iTube can alert the user to any common food allergen, not just peanuts.

As the iTube is significant smaller and lighter than similar products on the market, it is believed that the technology will be especially valuable for parents and schools.

UCLA’s iTube food allergen test takes approximately 20 minutes, using ground up samples of the food, hot water and a provided extraction solvent to determine the results. The prepared mixture is then combined with other provided chemicals until the sample is ready for testing through the smart phone application.

Images from the smart phone camera through the application are then converted into measurements of the detected ingredient, providing an exact amount of present allergen in the product.

The researchers also believe that the iTube could provide a global allergen database made up of allergens effecting consumers based on their geographical location. UCLA researchers believe that the allergen database could be used for future food research.