Smarter cheesemark: Parmigiano Reggiano’s traceability boosted with microchipped casein labels
01 Apr 2022 --- As producers of one of the world’s most historic cheeses, The Parmigiano Reggiano Consortium (Consorzio del Parmigiano Reggiano) has teamed up with Dutch cheesemark designer Kaasmerk Matec and American developer of digital tracking tech p-Chip Corporation to add blockchain-enabled digital labels to improve the traceability of its cheese wheels.
P-Chip creates trackable silicon microchips embedded directly into a food-safe casein label – an industry-standard, protein-based type of food packaging – and placed on cheese wheels. These durable trackers are the same size as a grain of salt and used to determine a product’s authenticity, as well as its origin in the supply chain.
According to p-Chip, their micro transponder cannot be replicated or counterfeited, can survive between temperatures of -200°C to 500°C, is resistant to microwave irradiation, and is not affected by solvents or reagents.
The technology will allow the Parmigiano Reggiano Consortium to prove the provenance and authenticity of its product to wholesalers and consumers alike, and will make it harder for fraudsters to sell counterfeit versions of the Italian cheese.
“Since the Consortium was founded in 1934, we have aimed to convey the value of our product globally and distinguish it from similar-sounding products on the market that do not meet our strict requirements for production and area of origin,” remarks Nicola Bertinelli, president of the Parmigiano Reggiano Consortium.
“By being the first to incorporate these secure digital labels onto our cheese wheels, we can continue to ensure consumer safety, bringing the traceability and authentication of our products to meet industry 4.0 technological targets.”
Behind the technology
The partnership between Kaasmerk Matec and p-Chip resulted in the development of a micro transponder – a blockchain crypto anchor that can be embedded into 2D QR code labels or a smaller Data Matrix code.
The innovation combines food-safe casein labels with the p-Chip microtransponder – a scannable crypto-anchor that creates a digital “twin” for physical items.
The technology can be used to verify the authenticity of materials and track chain-of-custody, both before and after purchase.
Considering the widespread circulation of fake products, food and beverage manufacturers are constrained to implement technology solutions to counter this problem.
Security labels, holograms and barcodes are some of the most common authentication technologies used by manufacturers on their product packaging, but p-Chip argues they are not as secure or as cost effective as its microtransponder.
Fighting food fraud with microtech
According to the US-based Consumer Brands Association (CBA), it is estimated that counterfeiting of global food and consumer products may cost the industry US$10 to 15 billion per year.
The growing trade of counterfeit products is expected to boost the demand for track and trace solutions from the F&B sector.
It is said that products with GIs are especially prone to food fraud because of their higher value. On average, the price of a GI product is 2.1 times the price of a comparable non-GI product, because it can be easily done by replacing a product’s labeling.
Earlier this week, Europol’s latest Opson IX report on food fraud activity across 77 countries worldwide revealed a total of 12,000 illicit food products seized with a retail value of approximately US$40 million.
Roughly 19 organized crime groups were disrupted, and 27,579 inspections were carried out. About 2 million liters of fake or sub-standard drinks and 2,000 tons of fraudulent fruit, vegetables and legumes were seized.
By Benjamin Ferrer
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