University of Guelph researchers have developed a portable device that can detect allergens in food in a matter of minutes.

Professor Suresh Neethirajan, director of the university's BioNano Lab, said the wallet-sized device will save lives by making it easier for people to avoid the foods they are allergic to.

professor Suresh Neethirajan, researcher Xuan Weng

Professor Suresh Neethirajan and researcher Xuan Weng have filed a patent for the technology. (University of Guelph News/Twitter)

"If a consumer is interested in testing, he or she has to take a tiny, little bit of the food and put it in a plastic capsule, shake it for about 30 seconds, and then put the capsule into this wallet-shaped device," Neethirajan said.

The detector then uses a LED light and a specialized camera to determine what, if any, allergens are present.

Neethirajan said the device will also be useful for those who are manufacturing or cooking food for sale, and for food safety inspectors. 

Researchers have filed a patent for the technology and hope to have the device available for purchase in a couple of years.

With files from the CBC's Max Leighton