Heather Sliwinski

Nima Peanut Sensor: Updates from the R&D Lab

Nima peanut sensor

While thousands of people are avoiding gluten detected by Nima every day, our R&D team is also working diligently on our forthcoming peanut sensor, planned for release at the end of 2017. We caught up with Dr. Aquanette Burt, Ph.D., assay development scientist at Nima, to learn more about the how development is coming for the Nima peanut sensor and what we can expect for the final product later this year.

Hi Aqua! We get inquiries every day about when Nima’s peanut sensor is launching. Where are we in the development process for peanut?

We’re on track for launch in late 2017, and most testing is focused on the chemistry inside the test capsule. We’re testing different foods to see how well we can detect peanut in each, to catch any cross-reactivity and determine our limit of detection (LOD), or basically how small of an amount we can detect reliably.

What LOD can we expect for the peanut sensor? How did we select that LOD?

Right now, we’re aiming for below 5 parts per million, or 0.5 mg peanut in a standard serving size of 100 g. The FDA doesn’t have a “peanut-free” standard for labels on packaged foods like there is for gluten (less than 20 ppm), so we referenced research and data provided by organizations such as the FDA Allergen Thresholds, FARRP on population thresholds, and consulted with experts in the allergen community to determine our target LOD.

Nima can’t detect hydrolyzed gluten because the gluten protein has been broken down and is too small to detect. Are there any similar limitations for peanut proteins?

The most common peanut varieties in the U.S. are Runner, Virginia, Spanish and Valencia, with Runner claiming about 80 percent of production. Nima will be able to detect all four of these varieties. We are aiming to detect both cooked and raw peanuts, but cooked peanuts are more common in food than raw. So we’re testing foods like baked goods, candies, ice cream and more.

What about peanut oil? Peanut oil is always a big question mark for diners.

We will be testing peanut oil during cross-reactivity studies, but highly processed peanut oils do not contain any peanut allergens and therefore are not typically considered reactive, according to the FDA: “Studies show that most individuals with peanut allergy can safely eat peanut oil (but not cold-pressed, expelled or extruded peanut oil – sometimes represented as gourmet oils).”

However, individuals may react to crude peanut oils, as they are not highly refined, and the allergens are present. Nima will detect peanut proteins in these crude oils. As always, discuss with your doctor before eating or avoiding peanut oil.

What’s next in the R&D process?

We are experimenting with peanut testing in the capsule under different conditions to see what will yield the best results. We’ll also be expanding the types of food we’re testing and introducing the peanut capsule to the sensor for testing to make sure it works as a cohesive system.

That’s great news! We are so excited to share more with our community as development continues. Thanks for sharing, Aqua.

Be sure to follow us and get on the waitlist for the peanut sensor to be notified of product updates, and check out our first live peanut test below!

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