What is Going on with the Nima Sensor!?

nima sensor scam

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:

Dude: Hey folks. I’ve been struggling on how to approach testing the Nima Sensor and it goes to the core of how I run my blog and how I stay true to my audience. I noticed the other day you posted McDonald’s Fries and that they passed the Nima test. I wrote about their fries a few years back. It’s my personal belief that the risk is simply too high. And even though your test came back positive, a different test from a different location may not. But if it passes the test once, I know many will see that as a license to eat MCD fries anywhere and anytime. I struggle with that.

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:

“I’m delighted to share that Nima has been acquired by one of the world’s leading manufacturers and distributors of healthcare products. You can continue to purchase Nima products on Amazon. In Nima’s new home, we are thrilled to have found an avenue which will help realize the scale we had always envisioned for Nima.”

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:

In late 2019, Medline became the distributor of Nima products. In early 2020, Nima went out of business, and the products – including capsules and sensors – currently are unavailable. We thank you for your business, and we will gladly provide an update if anything changes.

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.

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12 thoughts on “What is Going on with the Nima Sensor!?”

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

    1. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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!

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I AM someone who's been gluten-free since 2007 due to a diagnosis of severe celiac disease. I'm someone who can steer you in the right direction when it comes to going gluten-free. And I'm someone who will always give you the naked truth about going gluten free.

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