Scientists and engineers at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science have created a device called an iTube and a corresponding smart phone app to help consumers test food for allergens, reports Science Today.
The iTube connects to a cell phone camera and, in combination with the app, runs a colorimetric assay test with the same level of sensitivity as a lab test.
The device is meant to help 8 percent of young children and 2 percent of adults who have life-threatening allergies to common food ingredients.
Research team leader Aydogan Ozca said the iTube fits into a pocket or purse, and weighs under 2 ounces.
The test, which takes about 20 minutes, involves grounding up a sample of food and placing it in a test tube with hot water. Different liquids are added to the sample, which must sit for 20 minutes before the iTube test.
The iTube currently tests for the most common food allergens, including almonds, peanuts, eggs and gluten.