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.
18 thoughts on “What is Going on with the Nima Sensor!?”
I’m with you. I never bought into the hype or found a useful application. Could it be trusted? $10 to test one item? I’d rather save up the costs and buy a gluten sniffing dog.
I’m currently training my service dog to smell gluten! They are WAY more accurate then any little machine!
I have Celiac Disease and I am owner of a NIMA tester. I am very disappointed I can’t buy test capsules. The NIMA tester is certainly not perfect and does have some limitations. I have mainly used it at restaurants and many times it has saved me from eating gluten. Restaurant managers have told me things like they just checked with the cook and they used the same pasta water to make my gluten free pasta as they did for regular gluten pasta. I want to make it clear that I have never paid $10 for a test capsule, they have cost me from $5 to $6 dollars. There is an excellent article on the Good For You Gluten Free Blog called “Did NIMA sensor go out of business” https://www.goodforyouglutenfree.com/nima-sensor-out-of-business/ . In the article she talks about how mixed messages are coming out of the Medline company.
Great post on this–the frustrations and shortcomings. I was initially interested in it (both for my patients with celiac disease and also a family member with a food allergy), but after learning more never felt comfortable due to the problems with sample heterogeneity and lack of transparency . I was always worried someone with a peanut allergy would have anaphylaxis after using a Nima
Thanks. All super frustrating. I do have one, and though I still took all of my other precautions, I did use it as an additional line of security when traveling, though I had many problems. And yeah, I bought in the early days, when it was a lot more than 200, and paid for their monthly premium membership, too. So, yeah, I’m pretty unhappy about the whole thing. I had problems all along, both with the device, with linking to their database of restaurants/customer results, and with the billing/recurring subscriptions. And I was never able to get any satisfaction from them. That was a lot of money for my husband and I that ended up being basically useless. Serious major bummer.
So the NIMA is back under the name NIMA Partners you can buy the machine and the capsules on their website. I really liked the nima but when they went out of business I bought some of the Amazon packs and half of them didn’t work. The whole thing definitely left a bad taste in my mouth. They left us with no answers on what was going on. It was deeply unfair to people like me who get very sick from even small amounts of gluten. I don’t eat out that much but when I travel that is tough. One trip to tulum it saved me from eating my breakfast yogurt. I the USA most yogurt is safe but it’s common for it to have wheat added as a thickener. I don’t speak the language so reading the label was not possible. The only way I found out was because the Nima set off a gluten in my breakfast. When they stopped being reliable it was really scary. I am very cautious but many restaurants the cooks don’t realize that using a utensil to cut my food that was used on food with gluten can make me sick for days. I hope Nima partners are actually committed to making things better for celiac patients and it’s not a situation where we end up eating hundreds of dollars and all it does is look like an expensive piece of trash. Oh and on the new site it doesn’t say if the new capsules work in the old sensor so I will have to buy the capsules then try them in my old one and if it doesn’t work buy another overpriced machine that may end up sitting in the bottom of my junk drawer. So insane and shame on them. I probably won’t invest more money on this and just wait to see how well it does if the capsules aren’t compatible.
Wow. I had my reservations about Nima, but this is clearly an act of corporate sabotage and should be illegal. Is it illegal? This is like major car manufacturers buying smaller ones so they can put them out of business.
This is really making me want to give a civics lesson in why the Progressives are right. But there’s far too much political talk out there already. Let’s just say, we have to make a less evil business environment and here’s a perfect example why.
I always thought it odd that Nima would not sell to Australia. Good thing as it turned out.
I have found the sensor helpful. I’ve tested foods only after I ate and then felt sick. I do see the capsules for sale on Amazon.com (pack of 6 for $35.99) and just placed an order for them. My issue previously had been the expiration date came too soon. They now are advertised to expire 8-12 months.
Nima gluten test capsules are available again on Amazon. Also, when the device is used properly by reasonably intelligent people, it is highly accurate and another barrier to getting glutened.
Yes I noticed that too. 6 capsules for around $35 seems really reasonable. You’d never get 6 ELISA tests for that price. But don’t fall for the pitfalls, like assuming today’s negative test means that tomorrow, there won’t be gluten in those fries (or whatever). You have to test every single time you eat something risky, and that gets pricey. I agree that it’s a great tool, when its limits are respected.
I am so sad can’t get capsules anymore. But I find another interesting product, it looks will sale their product on Indiegogo. Unfortunately, I can measure what time I can purchase it.
The business was never “acquired”. The owner of NIMA abandoned the business and sold the left over stock to Medline. Medline confirmed Nima went out of business and they are selling the leftover stock. Very sad. The owner of NIMA should be ashamed of herself.
I bough this but I never ever pushed it to my celiac friends. Yes it was a cool idea but I’m with you that every mc Donald’s is different and one store very well might be using it only for fries but another might not have that extra frier. It’s not something you can test once especially with dining and food is portioned and is cooked from multiple areas before it goes on your plate. Lots can happen! I did find it helped find a gluten free labeled food. Chex was my false positive but once I removed it I improved. Maybe it’s the chemicals but my attg also fell and my March level went from 2 back to normal. I also had a thought false from Cheerios but the Canadian government tested for me and found it was true. They tested chex and found it was false. If it don’t have our government label on the box today, I won’t eat it!
Medline says they have been purchased AGAIN and no one can tell me where the heck to get the capsules.
Hi everyone, it’s a shame this product has in effect been mothballed, and probably for the wrong reasons, I suspect the legal side may have had a effect. The fact that some food outlets will be stricter than others with making sure gf food is as close to gf as humanly possible, and even then with soo many possibilities of g contamination from source to plate nothing is 100%. But from what I have read, the Nima is ideal for giving a idea if something is suspect, and even outlets knowing coeliacs have this in their armoury will be kept on their toes, and underline to temporary staff of the importance of how important keeping gf foods gf.
I’ve been coeliac for about 30 years, and am one of those that doesn’t have a obvious reaction when have accidentally been glutened, in fact 7 years ago under medical instruction I went on a gluten challenge, small amount of g each day for around 4 weeks, biopsied before and after, and strangely had no physical symptoms, yet second biopsy confirmed villi atrophy, I guess that’s why so many coeliacs go undiagnosed .
So for me this would have been a useful tool , although have to be used within its perimeters, and respect unless you test every thing, every time there is always some risk, but I’m sure the worst food outlet offenders would realise they can be caught out by the customers, and keep standards to a level we would expect.
I’m in the uk so not sure if was available direct even when it was on sale, hopefully a new product of similar will find its way to market sometime soon !
strange idea that is maybe parinoid
maybe the people bought the nima sensor so they could discontinue it because they can get more $$ by it ot existing