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The device hooks directly up to a smart phone device where it uses an optic lens placed behind the phone's camera to test for food allergens. Photo: UCLA Newsroom

There’s no denying the fact that people suffering from food allergies have a more difficult life than the rest of us. Instead of going out to a restaurant and carelessly ordering anything on the menu, they must carefully read the description and ask the waiter to determine whether or not it contains any ingredients they are allergic to. Thanks to the advancements in modern technology, however, this process could potentially become easier and less time-consuming thanks to a newly developed smart phone app.

Food allergies is all-too-common health condition that affects roughly 5% of adults and 8% of children worldwide. Some of the most common food that trigger outbreaks are peanuts, milk, shrimp, eggs, almost and gluten. Allergic reactions may just cause hives to develop somewhere on the body, or they can cause life-threatening complications like the swelling of the air passage. As you can see, food allergies is nothing to mess around with, which is why it’s important for individuals suffering from them to always know what they are eating.

Students and researchers at the University of California (UCLA) set out to tackle the problem of food allergies by developing a device and application for testing food. Named the “iTube,” this device hooks directly up to a smart phone device where it uses an optic lens placed behind the phone’s camera to test for allergens. The perform a test, the individual must first take small sample of the food in question and mix it with warm water and a solvent solution. Once the sample has sat in the solvent and water for at least 20 minutes, you can then take a close-up picture of it using the iTube app. It will then optically scan the sample to detect for any possible allergens.

While there are already several different methods available for testing food allergens, this is arguably the easiest and most consumer-friendly method. Instead of sending samples off to a lab for testing, you can snap a picture using your smart phone. Another benefit to using the iTube is that it only weighs a couple ounces, so you can rest assured knowing that it isn’t going to make your smart phone feel heavy and bulky. Of course you can always remove it once you’re done testing samples, but it’s sleek and lightweight enough so that it can left on your phone as well. Whether or not the UCLA team decides to continue production on the iTube is still up in the air, but it’s likely we’ll be seeing more of this in the future.

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