Fake Olive Oil? Fake Fish? Fraud Has Reached into What We Eat

Fraud stamp

 (DGIwire) — Interpol recently confiscated more than 1,200 tons of counterfeit food and 430,000 liters of counterfeit beverages across Europe. Ninety-six people were arrested. But wait: fake food? How could this be?

In fact, food—like much else in today’s global economy—is not always what it’s cracked up to be. As an example, specialty products such as olive oil, with strict guidelines for their ingredients, are expensive to make; below-grade knockoffs are manufactured at greatly reduced cost. These counterfeiting enterprises reward highly organized criminal entities with millions of dollars in profit. And there are serious health risks associated with widespread food substitution, or more aptly, “food fraud.”

Cut to Japan, where Nissha Printing Co., Ltd., a powerhouse company with a half billion dollars in sales, is using an advanced plant-DNA-based technology in a remarkable project to protect the brands of highly valued fish. A new label printing system uses “DNA ink,” derived from plant DNA, to mark and authenticate labels on the fish, which previously have been widely counterfeited.

Marketed as CustomerQ, Nissha uses DNA-infused ink to secure the fresh fish supply chain for the Oita Fisheries Cooperative. Its catch is weighed and measured at a central distribution center, and assigned its own unique product label that certifies the origin, expiration and the shipment information. All this identifying information is encoded in a tiny DNA mark that is trackable and traceable to a unique product. At any point the data carried by the mark may be forensically verified by Applied DNA Sciences’ labs just as surely as a crime lab uses DNA to identify people.

In Japan, which consumes more seafood per capita than any other country in the world—three ounces daily on average—the ability to trace the origin of fish is critically important to the economy and to public health and safety. Think of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Food source tracking can also protect the supply chains of organically grown foods, fair-labor practice foods and sustainable-farming foods.

And while the food supply chains worldwide are now incredibly complex, the DNA solution is elegantly simple. In essence, an identifying, covert mark travels everywhere with the food itself.

Only a tiny amount of SigNature® DNA—Applied DNA Sciences’ main branded ingredient—is necessary to mark items since, in its natural form, DNA is the most dense information carrier on earth; DNA’s encoding capacity is roughly equal to the memory power of 100 billion DVDs per gram.

Based in Stony Brook, NY, Applied DNA Sciences has developed a array of anti-counterfeit solutions used in industries including cash-in-transit, homeland security, textiles and apparel, identity cards and other secure documents, law enforcement, pharmaceuticals, wine and luxury consumer goods.

Dr. James A. Hayward, President and CEO of Applied DNA Sciences, commented, “Corruption and fakery in the food supply chains is as pernicious as, say, counterfeit pharmaceuticals. Both endanger not just people’s livelihoods—bad enough—but people’s lives.”

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