Food Science and Technology Department


Date of this Version



Journal of Food Protection 81:10 (2018), pp. 1723–1728.

doi: 10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-18-184


This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license.


A portable, handheld gluten detection device, the Nima sensor, is now available for consumers wishing to determine if gluten is present in food. By U.S. regulation, gluten-free foods should contain < 20 ppm of gluten. Thirteen gluten-free foods (muffins, three different types of bread, three different types of pasta, puffed corn snack, ice cream, meatballs, vinegar and oil salad dressing, oatmeal, and dark chocolate) were prepared; each food was spiked on a weight-to-weight basis with gluten levels of 0, 5, 10, 20, 30, 40, and 100 ppm before processing or preparation. Unprocessed and processed foods were tested with the handheld gluten sensor and by two gluten-specific enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs) on the basis of the R5 and G12 monoclonal antibodies, respectively. The portable gluten detection device detected gluten in all food types at the 30-ppm addition level, failing to detect gluten in only 5 (6.4%) of 78 subsamples. At the 20-ppm addition level, the portable gluten detection device failed to detect gluten in one type of pasta but detected gluten residues in 63 (87.5%) of 72 other subsamples. The device was able to detect gluten at the 10-ppm addition level in 9 of the 13 food matrices (41 of 54 subsamples, 75.9%) but not in the three types of pasta and the puffed corn snack. The gluten-sensing device did not perform reliably at the 5-ppm addition level in 11 of 13 food matrices (exceptions: ice cream and muffins). In contrast, the ELISA methods were highly reliable at gluten addition levels of ≥ 10 ppm in all food matrices. The portable gluten detection device yielded a low percentage of false-positive results (4 of 111, 3.6%) in these food matrices. Thus, this handheld portable gluten sensor performed reliably in the detection of gluten in foods having ≥ 20 ppm of added gluten with only 18 (5.9%) of 306 failures, if results of the one type of pasta are excluded. The device worked with greater reliability as the gluten levels in the foods increased.

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