Counterfeiting of money and legal documents has been going on for as long as we have had them. Claiming that food is something when it actually isn’t has been as well.
Is the Barramundi you might be having for lunch actually Queensland Barramundi or has it come from somewhere else? Is the honey you have paid a premium for actually New Zealand Manuka like the label says or is it not? Is the caviar actually the specific type you paid for? Is the coffee you are drinking truly made from the beans which have been “pre-processed” by the Civet? Is the calamari you are thoroughly enjoying, actually squid or pigs anuses?
In other words, is the food you are eating really the genuine article?
Many foods have reputations for quality, taste, texture, colour or even medicinal properties, and people have for thousands of years been able to charge a premium for them.
This has obviously, and inevitably, created opportunies for some to try to either counterfeit these foods or to try to sell alternatives and claim they are the expected food.
When there is money to be made from a special food, there is a great temptation for some to do dishonest and illegal things to make that money.
So what can those businesses who do produce and sell the genuine aricles do about this loss of reputation and income?
One approach is to put pressure on legislators to bring in legal requirements which must be met and the associated penalties and gaol sentences if they are not followed.
In France and across the world, Champagne is the name which can only be used for sparkling wine from the Champagne region in France. This means that all other sparkling wine around the world cannot be called Champagne – even though the process used in it’s manufacture is fundamentally the same.
Similar names have now been locked in in the same way for some of our favourite cheeses.
But this is just one of the controls which have now been implemented to stop the counterfeiting of special foods. But what can the individual manufacturers do to protect their product’s reputation and their sales?
Another is DNA testing.
This method uses testing of the foods to identify specific DNA or other chemicals which are specific to the special foods. The only issue with this is that the food would need to be tested by the buyer to confirm that they have bought what they paid for.
A new development is making it’s way into the market and will provide a complete history of each individual package. By using a process which was originally developed by the finance industry, manufacturers can use “blockchaining” to allow these manufacturers to give the complete history of each individual product purchased, from it’s manufacturing history to any attempts to open the packaging before it was purchased.
It is expensive at this stage but for those companies trying to protect their special products, their reputation and their livelihood it is a a new way to be able to give their customers what they are actually expecting.