TellSpec food scanner reveals what you're eating

It has come to our attention that the product discussed in this article makes highly dubious claims. Please follow this link to read our follow-up article about TellSpec.

Reading labels and checking menus is one way of keeping tabs on what you're eating and whether or not it could be harmful. But if you have food allergies, chances are you're still nervous about what you might be eating.

Read our follow up on this story for more information.

The inventor of TellSpec wants to change that by allowing you to scan your foods and get an exact breakdown of what's in it.

Invented by Isabel Hoffmann, whose daughter suffers from severe food allergies, TellSpec is a simple device that scans food directly, returning results to a smart phone or tablet immediately.

A better breakdown of what you're eating

A spectrometer inside the TellSpec device sorts photons by wavelength and then counts them. The count, or spectrum, describes the chemical makeup of whatever is scanned. This information goes to the TellSpec server, which then returns the results to your smartphone or tablet. The scanner cues on specific items such as gluten, egg, peanuts and pesticides.

Food labels are allowed to be off by about 20 percent, according to federal rules, so what the label says is in there may not be what is truly there, by proportion. TellSpec can be nearly exact in its ingredients breakdown. The most commonly "fudged" figure, says TellSpec, is calorie count, especially in treats and candies.

TellSpec hopes to have their device available to the public by Christmas and says the scanner is no more intense than a household light bulb. It will cost in the neighborhood of $450 and includes the app.

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