Traveling with food allergies requires an extra measure of caution for those affected. In the past, that caution may have kept them from sampling local fare, a big part of any travel experience. Now, a new smartphone add-on will allow allergy-suffering travelers to test their meal at restaurants, food trucks, sidewalk cafes or any other dining venue around the world.
I have a friend in the UK who has a fish/seafood allergy so severe that if she so much as smells fish, a reaction occurs. If a tiny speck of fish accidentally makes its way in or on to something she eats? Off to the hospital she goes. She is far from alone.
Unique food allergies, sensitivities or restrictions with reactions that can be severe, and even life-threatening, affect millions of people, both children and adults. While traveling, those affected can’t rely on others to help; the down side to them being wrong is just too much of a gamble.Airlines provide special meals for these travelers if notified in advance. Food labels can indicate potential problem ingredients. Asking servers what is in food can help too. But until now, nothing allergic travelers could do would guarantee food safety.
To give allergic travelers a high level of confidence that what they are about to eat is safe for them, researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) developed the iTube.
Using the cellphone’s built-in camera, the iTube, along with a smartphone app, runs a test with the same high level of sensitivity of a laboratory. Unlike other mobile devices that detect allergens, the iTube is easy to use and much less bulky, according to the UCLA researchers at the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science.
“We envision that this cellphone–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 and a UCLA associate professor of electrical engineering and bioengineering in the UCLA Newsroom.
Can’t wait for the iTube to hit the shelves of your favorite gear store? A Food Allergy Translation Card iPhone App may help while you wait, as we see in this video:
[Photo Credits- Flickr user sweenpole2001 and UCLA Newsroom]