Smartphones May Reduce Food Allergy Exposure in 2013

With serious food allergies shaping dietary habits for millions of people all over the world, the unnecessary or accidental exposure to certain foods and beverages represents a matter of life and death for countless individuals.

As a result, researchers from the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science have been busy exploring ways in which mobile technologies can be used to reduce the number of food allergy dangers in our daily lives.

The team in question has developed “a lightweight device called the iTube, which attaches to a common cell phone to detect allergens in food samples.”

According to an announcement that largely went under the radar late last year, the iTube attachment pioneered by the enterprising young minds out of UCLA uses a cell phone’s built-in camera and a customized mobile app to run a test “with the same high level of sensitivity a laboratory would.”

Food allergies are an emerging public concern, affecting as many as 8 percent of young children and 2 percent of adults. Allergic reactions can be severe and even life-threatening. And while consumer-protection laws regulate the labeling of ingredients in pre-packaged foods, cross-contaminations can still occur during processing, manufacturing and transportation.

“We envision that this cell phone–based allergen testing platform could be very valuable, especially for parents, as well as for schools, restaurants and other public settings,” says Aydogan Ozcan, leader of the research team. “Once successfully deployed in these settings, the big amount of data — as a function of both location and time — that this platform will continuously generate would indeed be priceless for consumers, food manufacturers, policymakers and researchers, among others.”

To learn more about the technology in development at UCLA, click here.

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