Parmesan Cheesemakers Use Microchips to Fight Counterfeits


Parmesan cheese, or Parmigiano Reggiano, is one of the most famous and valued products of Italian gastronomy. It is made in a specific area of northern Italy, following strict rules and quality standards. However, it is also one of the most counterfeited cheeses in the world, with many imitations that do not respect the original recipe or origin.

The Parmigiano Reggiano Consortium, the association that protects and promotes the authentic cheese, estimates that the global market of fake parmesan is worth about $2 billion, almost as much as the real one. This not only damages the reputation and income of the genuine producers, but also deceives the consumers who pay for a lower quality product.

Parmesan Cheesemakers Use Microchips to Fight Counterfeits
Parmesan Cheesemakers Use Microchips to Fight Counterfeits

The solution of microchips

To fight against this fraud, the consortium has decided to adopt a new technology: microchips. These are tiny devices, about the size of a grain of salt, that are embedded in the casein labels that are attached to the rind of each wheel of cheese. The casein labels are made from milk protein and are edible, but usually not consumed.

The microchips contain a unique digital ID that can be scanned by a smartphone or a reader. This allows the consortium to track and monitor each cheese from its production to its distribution, ensuring its authenticity and traceability. The microchips also provide information to the consumers, who can verify the origin, age, and quality of the cheese they buy.

The consortium has started to test this technology on 120,000 wheels of cheese, out of the 3.6 million that are produced each year. If the experiment is successful, the microchips will become a permanent feature of the Parmigiano Reggiano production.

The benefits of microchips

The use of microchips is expected to bring several benefits to the Parmigiano Reggiano industry and its customers. First of all, it will help to prevent and detect counterfeiting, by making it easier to identify and remove fake products from the market. This will protect the reputation and income of the genuine producers, who invest time and resources to make a high quality product.

Secondly, it will enhance the transparency and trust between the producers and the consumers, by providing accurate and reliable information about each cheese. This will allow the consumers to appreciate and recognize the value and uniqueness of the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, and to choose it over cheaper imitations.

Thirdly, it will improve the efficiency and sustainability of the production chain, by enabling a better management and control of the inventory, logistics, and quality standards. This will reduce waste and costs, and increase customer satisfaction.

The future of microchips

The Parmigiano Reggiano Consortium is not the only one to use microchips to protect its products. Other Italian food products with protected designation of origin (PDO) status, such as Prosciutto di Parma (Parma ham) and Grana Padano (another type of hard cheese), have also adopted similar technologies to fight counterfeiting.

The use of microchips is part of a broader trend of applying digital solutions to food safety and traceability issues. According to a report by MarketsandMarkets , the global market for food traceability technologies is expected to grow from $16.8 billion in 2020 to $26.1 billion by 2025.

The report identifies several factors that drive this growth, such as increasing consumer demand for food information and quality, rising food safety regulations and standards, growing food fraud incidents and recalls, and advancing technological innovations.

Microchips are one example of these innovations, but there are others, such as blockchain , QR codes , biometrics , and sensors . These technologies aim to create more transparent, secure, and efficient food systems that benefit both producers and consumers.


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