TellSpec: Revolutionary Device for Celiacs?

Every once in a while, I stumble upon something in the crowd funding sites.  This time, it’s on the IndieGoGo site.  It’s a campaign for something called the TellSpec.  That doesn’t really tell you much.  Especially anything about why it might be revolutionary for Celiacs.

Try this on for size:

You want to know what’s in your food before you buy it, before you order it, and before you eat it – because your health depends on what you eat.

Many foods contain chemicals and allergens that we want to avoid. But it can be difficult to know whether these chemicals and allergens are in your food or not. How can you tell if your food contains the nutrients you need? What about things like sodium, gluten or trans fats that you might be trying to avoid? Food labels can give us some information if they’re available, but they are not always intelligible and some ingredients may not even be reported.

We have invented a system called TellSpec combining a spectrometer and a unique algorithm to tell you the allergens, chemicals, nutrients, calories, and ingredients in your food.

It’s small enough to fit on a keyring.  It communicates with your cell phone.  You push a button, it uses it’s spectrometer to get a reading off of the food, then sends that reading to a server.  That server puts the reading through it’s database, and returns a list of ingredients based on that reading.

TellspecPotentially, you could take a reading off of the food you’re about to eat at a restaurant, and know, nearly instantaneously, whether it contains any gluten.  If it delivers on that, it really would be revolutionary for anyone with Celiac Disease.

Of course, it will depend on just how sensitive it really is.  It can find the gluten in a slice of whole wheat bread, but can it find the gluten from a cross contamination?  Can it determine if the soup you’re about to eat was thickened with flour?  Can it tell you whether the seasoning on your steak contains gluten?  If it’s sensitive enough to do those things, it will truly be one of the most revolutionary things to happen for Celiacs in years.

Right now, you can contribute to the campaign and receive a TellSpec before they’re made available to the public.  It requires a $200 contribution, and only until about 195 more of the $200 contributions are made, then it will be going up to $250.  I didn’t see anything that indicated how much the price would be once it was available to the public.

 

Immune System Response to Quinoa

A recent study, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, tested 15 different cultivars of Quinoa for both gluten and for any immune system response to the Quinoa in Celiac patients.  The results:

Fifteen quinoa cultivars were tested: 4 cultivars had quantifiable concentrations of celiac-toxic epitopes, but they were below the maximum permitted for a gluten-free food. Cultivars Ayacuchana and Pasankalla stimulated T cell lines at levels similar to those for gliadin and caused secretion of cytokines from cultured biopsy samples at levels comparable with those for gliadin.

What does that mean? Well, really not much.  4 of the cultivars had testable levels of gluten, meaning their test had results.  However, all of those that returned those results were below the 20ppm which is used as an acceptable level of gluten to be called gluten free.  Further, of the 4 that had testable levels of gluten, only two of them caused any sort of reaction at all in the patients.

They conclude by saying that more testing needs to be done.

Obviously, I don’t think the results of this study are anything to panic about.  Of the 15 cultivars tested, all had below 20ppm results.  I’m not sure if there’s a way to avoid the 2 cultivars that cause some reaction.  As the NFCA noted in their article (here) on the same study, it serves as a good reminder to check the labels of anything that you’re planning on eating to make sure that the ingredients are gluten free, and have had as few chances of cross-contamination as possible.

Another Chef Gets Gluten Wrong

This time, at least, it’s across the pond and has little chance of poisoning you while you’re in a restaurant in the U.S.A.  Well known U.K. chef, Anthony Demetre, while on a morning television show doing a demonstration Gluten Free recipe is asked what the reasoning was for the gluten free meal.  Here’s his response:

Direct Link to YouTube video should  the embedding not work for you.

Someone from the Celiac London group spoke to Phil Vickery, another U.K. Chef and an Ceoliac U.K. food advisory group and got the following response from him:

After seeing Saturday’s BBC’s Saturday Kitchen, and receiving emails I have to make the following comments.
It just goes to prove that this awful disease is still looked on as a joke and in a very flippant way in the certain areas of the cat…ering industry, that frankly, really should know better.
This sort of ill informed advice or statement coming from a well respected chef sends out the totally wrong message. It also magnifies, just how little is known and more worryingly how much these guys actually care about Coeliac disease in the restaurant environment.
It should be compulsory for all young chefs to undergo basic training in all areas regarding diseases and allergies, sadly until that happens, we are going to have to put up with the sort of moronic comment time and time again.

Phil Vickery
Coeliac UK National Food Ambassador
10th April 2011

I couldn’t agree more.  It’s one thing to poison people with Gluten maliciously, like we saw Damian Cardone do, but this just reeks of poor education on the subject.  Here, we have a chef, who is supposed to know more about food than most of us will ever hope to know, who seems to be unknowingly poisoning himself because he doesn’t know any better.  Sad really.  I hope that Phil Vickery or someone in the U.K. Ceoliac community has reached out to him and is going to help him and educate him on the subject.  For him, it’s a matter of life and death.  Not to mention all the people who watched that show or have spoken with him or his doctor on the subject.  Which brings up another subject.  That of doctor education.  I’m still surprised, almost daily, by the lack of knowledge of such a widespread disease by those in the medical community.

Education, education, education.  We need so much more of it.

CNN Eatocracy Takes on Gluten

The CNN food blog Eatocracy has a semi-nice post today about gluten and what a gluten free diet is.  I say semi-nice because it doesn’t seem like there can be an article from a serious news organization that doesn’t have some modicum of inaccuracies or where it doesn’t seem like they are taking it lightly despite it’s affects.  That being said, most of the article does come across as being a serious article with some nice facts.

Celiac disease on the contrary, is an autoimmune disorder with intense gastrointestinal symptoms – like cramping and bloating – among others. When people with Celiac disease eat foods with gluten, it damages the villi of the small intestine wall – thus, preventing basic nutrients of food from being absorbed.

Simple avoiding bread doesn’t do much good. Gluten pops up in surprising places, including soy sauce, sausage, lunchmeat, some instant coffee, soups, sauces, and even Communion wafers. Sufferers often need to go to extreme measure to avoid encountering it – hence the uptick in gluten-free products, cookbooks and restaurants.

There’s also a poll at the end of the article where they’re polling your proximity to the gluten free lifestyle.  Take it, and show thank them for taking what can be a very harmful (and deadly) disease seriously.  Now, if only we could get most of the doctors to do the same…

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