Let me take you back in time. The year is 2014 and the month is November. A company called 6 Sensor Labs reached out to me about a product they were developing. At the time, it was simply called the Portable Gluten Sensor. I did an interview with one of the founders, Shireen Yates, an MIT grad with NCGS who was tired of not knowing whether her food was safe to eat.
Fast forward to 2016, when production of the now called Nima Sensor was completed. Shireen invited me and a group of other celiacs up to NYC for a little demo, food and drinks. They had a buffet set up with all GF food from a restaurant. During the demo, before we ate, she tested one of the foods from the buffet and it tested positive for gluten. Our jaws kinda dropped to the floor but looking back, perhaps it was all bullshit. I don’t know. Needless to say, I stuck with the drinks that night. But overall, I thought the device was cool, had potential and I also thought Shireen was good people.
Now we’re at 2017 and Shireen sent me a free Nima to try. Unlike some out there who got the sensor and immediately raved about it, I was skeptical.
I reached out to Sheena explaining my hesitancy. Here’s the shortened version of the conversation:
For my testing, I was going to test Cheerios. But odds are, the box I test would pass. Does it mean they’re all safe? Not in my mind. And this holds true on a lot of foods out there. By me posting test results is saying that this food is ok and I can’t say that and firmly believe it.
So I am not going to use the Nima at this point and would be happy to send it back to you.
Nima: Thanks for the thoughtful response and perspective. It seems you are concerned with providing a false sense of security for folks if you test a sample of something that comes-up gluten-free and having users think that a certain product will always be gluten-free, relying on just a pea sized sample for all future decision making of eating a certain product or dish.
We are always striving to best position Nima to our users so it’s one additional data point to supplement what consumers are already doing for diligence when eating either packaged foods or restaurant dishes, and not a guarantee.
So I never used the Nima Sensor and never promoted it. But boy were others promoting it. And promoting it. And promoting it. It was out of hand. The Nima Sensor may or may not be accurate. From the research I had done, there seemed to be A LOT of false positives. On top of that, no third-party validation of their results had been released. So let’s just say, celiacs should have had a “wait on see” approach on this one. But f**k that when there’s money to be made. I saw more sponsored posts from celiac bloggers saying “Yay! [Random food item] came back negative on the Nima so I can definitely eat this and you can too!!!” No. NO NO NO.
And that brings us up to speed to 2020. And it’s ugly.
In May (which I know seems like years ago, but it was only 5 months ago), Nima was sold to a medical supply company called Medline. Shireen stated the following:
So what happened pretty much immediately after this announcement? The capsules used to test the food could no longer be found…anywhere. Now mind you, the Nima is $200 device but without the capsules (which run about $10 each and can be used only once), it’s a $200 paperweight. And people were rightfully pissed. Not only could they not get the sensors but they couldn’t even get an answer from Medline. Medline finally posted this on Twitter on September 30th:
Wait…what?? Medline purchased Nima and then put it out to pasture pretty much immediately?! And not only that, they were still selling the device even when they knew the capsules wouldn’t be available. That’s criminal behavior, but not surprising from a bunch of empty suits.
I reached out to Medline. No reply.
I reached out to Shireen. No reply.
I reached out on LinkedIn. No reply.
I reached out on Twitter. No reply.
Yet the Nima Sensor website is still up and running and it’s also still on the Medline site. Talk about screwing over the celiac community. I abhor lack of transparency and this is as opaque as it comes.
So it seems those that purchased the Nima are sh*t out of luck. And that…just…sucks.
If anyone has any other stories or updates about the Sensor, please share below.
This is Gluten Dude…checking out.