Trans-Tasman Superheroes to Fight Organized Food Crime?

Articles
June 09, 2009

Globalization has opened a countless number of doors for international opportunities and has allowed us limitless access to goods from around the world. Unfortunately, international counterfeiting villains have tapped into this market once again, and no were not just talkin’ knock-off Gucci bags, or Marlboros – we are talkin’ food. Global food traders are attempting to garner profits by deliberately mislabeling the country of origin on foods. Luckily, we have new superheros to the rescue and Australian scientists are utilizing a new technology that has the ability to pinpoint exactly where a food was produced. Australia and New Zealand pride themselves on providing high-quality foods that are ‘clean and green,’ essentially free of contaminants. Exactly the mantra counterfeiters are capitalizing on; providing sub-standard produce, deliberately mislabeling it and charging a premium rate. This poses a large concern for global manufacturers and retailers; they are not receiving the quality raw ingredients nor selling the products that they think they are. The implied quality is lost. In addition, consumers are increasingly interested in knowing where their food comes from, and also that it’s free from harmful pesticides and other possible contaminants- and rightly so, are trusting food manufacturers, brands and supermarkets to provide just that. The new tamperproof technology, utilized by Australian scientists, involves food’s unique “fingerprint” and can identify the exact region where the food was grown. What exactly is a food “fingerprint”? Food inherits the isotopic and elemental signatures of the land on which it was produced. Identifying these markers also allows scientists to obtain other information including, latitude, longitude, temperature, humidity, local agricultural practices, geology, and the age of the underlying bedrock, etc. In the case of animal products, tests can assess the composition and quality of the foods the animal had ingested. Milk can even be analyzed and traced back to different districts or counties. Hence, a fingerprint!

Globalization has opened a countless number of doors for international opportunities and has allowed us limitless access to goods from around the world.  Unfortunately, international counterfeiting villains have tapped into this market once again, and no were not just talkin’ knock-off Gucci bags, or Marlboros – we are talkin’ food.  Global food traders are attempting to garner profits by deliberately mislabeling the country of origin on foods.  Luckily, we have new superheros to the rescue and Australian scientists are utilizing a new technology that has the ability to pinpoint exactly where a food was produced.

Australia and New Zealand pride themselves on providing high-quality foods that are ‘clean and green,’ essentially free of contaminants.  Exactly the mantra counterfeiters are capitalizing on; providing sub-standard produce, deliberately mislabeling it and charging a premium rate.  This poses a large concern for global manufacturers and retailers; they are not receiving the quality raw ingredients nor selling the products that they think they are.  The implied quality is lost.  In addition, consumers are increasingly interested in knowing where their food comes from, and also that it’s free from harmful pesticides and other possible contaminants- and rightly so, are trusting food manufacturers, brands and supermarkets to provide just that.

The new tamperproof technology, utilized by Australian scientists, involves food’s unique “fingerprint” and can identify the exact region where the food was grown.  What exactly is a food “fingerprint”? Food inherits the isotopic and elemental signatures of the land on which it was produced.  Identifying these markers also allows scientists to obtain other information including, latitude, longitude, temperature, humidity, local agricultural practices, geology, and the age of the underlying bedrock, etc.  In the case of animal products, tests can assess the composition and quality of the foods the animal had ingested.  Milk can even be analyzed and traced back to different districts or counties.  Hence, a fingerprint!

This technology, if adopted by the Australian Government, will undoubtedly prove beneficial for Aussie and Kiwi food manufacturers, growers, and producers in protecting their ‘clean and green’ image.  

Clearly this technology has the potential to significantly impact the security of the food supply chain, supporting import and export regulations, proper country of origin labeling, quality assurance and could possibly eliminate food fraud. This innovation will also assist in perfecting traceability and labeling, and in reducing food safety issues- which will not only protect consumers, but brands and brand investments as well.  We can only hope that the US government will follow suit, recognize the universality of this technology, and adopt it as common practice that will help retailers, CPGs and the consumer.