Researchers have engineered a packaging ink that throws food product counterfeiters and frauds off their game.
Counterfeit and fraudulent products drain the global economy of approximately $600 billion USD each year, according to the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition . The World Customs Organization figures that fakes comprise a whopping 5% to 7% of worldwide commerce.
When food products fall in to the hands of fakers, the stakes are arguably higher. Much like contaminated or defective product can throw a processor into costly, damaging recalls , counterfeit foods put a company’s reputation—and the lives of consumers—in harm’s way.
Researchers at Hong Kong Polytechnic University hope to put a dent in global counterfeiting with anti-erasing (ATE) ink, geared toward use in foods, beverages, pharmaceuticals and other fast-moving consumer goods. The indelible markings can help prevent tampering and counterfeiting, and enhance product tracking throughout the supply chain.
Professor Pei Li heads up the research team at the school’s Department of Applied Biology and Chemical Technology, which was commissioned by materials manufacturer Hallyuen Holding Ltd in 2011 to craft anti-counterfeit technology.
After less than three years, the team’s work has paid off in the form of various anti-counterfeit items. In addition to the ATE inks, Li and her colleagues have developed irremovable coatings that also can protect product from tampering and counterfeiting.
Incorporating in existing lines
Li said the fast-drying ATE ink (compatible with continuous inkjet printers) can work in rapid packaging lines, on a broad variety of packaging materials. Created in several colors, the inks create marks that cannot be removed.
“With the adoption of ATE ink, product manufacturers now have an effective tool to combat counterfeit and tampered products that could result in disastrous impact on its operations and goodwill,” she said. “Consumers can be rest assured that their purchased food and beverage products are safe as the expiry dates on them are genuine.”
While three patents are in process for the ATE inks development, Hallyuen Holding already is scaling up the products for commercial use. China Mengniu Dairy Co. already has implemented the ink in their product lines, and the research team said other companies are lining up to try for themselves.