Updated: 14 October, with latest comments from allerguard CEO Shai Hershkovich
Israel-based food allergy detection startup allerguard has raised a $1.5 million post-seed round led by local capital firm CoShare. Other investors include eHealth Ventures and the Israel Innovation Authority, the government’s tech investment arm. The move is lead investor’s CoShare’s first foray into agri-foodtech, although the investment is still somewhat in-line with its typical stomping ground: medical tech.
The Israeli Agri-FoodTech startup scene is flourishing. Check out my fellow reporter Richard Martyn-Hemphill’s coverage of VC activity there, here. Richard also attended Israel’s AgriFood Week. Check out his notes, here.
Founded in 2017, allerguard is developing a handheld device that scans and analyzes the vapors emitted by prepared food to determine the presence of allergens, such as peanuts. It identifies an allergen right down to the parts per billion, which is recognized as the safest allowable amount. The startup said it can carry out this process in under a minute.
“During the incubator period we have completed development of our VMD (Vapor Molecular Detection) hardware and the supporting AI-based analysis software. These innovative elements are the base of a small device which detects the specific food allergen on a ppb (parts per billion) scale,” says Shai Hershkovich, CEO of allerguard, speaking exclusively to AFN. “The first prototype is focused on detection of peanuts (one of the most common and deadly food allergies) and can currently detect 0.7 mg of peanut allergens (smaller than a pinhead), with no required contact with the food.”
Snapshot: About allerguard
allerguard is patent pending technology that’s already successful in laboratory tests and will soon be available to the public. The startup aims to help cut down on the number of casualties resulting from food allergies. In the US, alone, 32 million people suffer from food allergies resulting in over 300,000 emergency room visits annually, according to the Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE). And those numbers are only increasing.
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Some of the most common foods to be allergic to are milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (e.g. walnuts, almonds, pine nuts, brazil nuts, pecans), fish, and shellfish (e.g. crustaceans and molluscs).
“At allerguard, our focus is on safety, detection efficiency, and user experience. This means that we always think about how the user will experience the sensor, the app, their meal, and the social impact on the sufferer. We want them to feel as normal as possible when going out to eat,” adds Hershkovich.
Could allerguard be used to verify gluten, soy-free products?
One thought that jumped into my mind is another way allerguard might be useful; to verify if companies manufacturing products that are labeled soy, peanut, or gluten-free, are consistent in their standards. Narrowing down on gluten, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) defines a ‘gluten-free’ product as having less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten. This level is the amount of gluten deemed safe for people with celiac disease, an autoimmune condition activated by ingesting minute amounts of gluten.
However, in FDA tests, an average of three out of 275 products contained more than 20 ppm of gluten (1.1%), which could possibly lead to flare ups in people suffering from the disease. The same FDA study states that 19.6% of unlabeled foods with no gluten in the ingredients contained unacceptable levels of the allergen.
Know a product catering to food allergy sufferers? Drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.