Beating the food tamperers

Monday, 16 September, 2013

Counterfeit and tampered with foods are on the rise and they can harm you, your business and your community.

Counterfeiters don’t pay tax so they don’t contribute to your community; they don’t pay fair wages so they exploit those making the goods and, at the same time, they deprive your employees of work.

Many counterfeit foods are plain dangerous. They are made from cheap, substandard ingredients in non-food-regulated environments or products that have passed their use-by dates miraculously reappear with new use-by dates. The potential to cause illness is high and the potential to damage your brand is high.

Resale of spoiled goods (eg, dairy and food products) or lost inventory and contaminated products is becoming common practice even in sizable markets in the world, thus threatening public health and tarnishing consumer confidence and brand value.

Package information such as manufacturing and/or expiry dates, lot numbers and manufacturing locations is frequently inkjet-printed onto food and beverage packaging. It not only provides information to the consumers, it also allows producers to track products from the production line to the retailers along the supply chain.

However, if these product markings can be altered easily, the potential for fraud and product tampering is high. One effective and economical way to minimise this risk is through the use of irremovable (indelible) markings.

Now a solution is at hand - Anti-Erasing (ATE) Ink has been developed by researchers at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU)’s Department of Applied Biology and Chemical Technology. The ink is suitable for fast-moving consumer goods such as food, drink and drug packaging where it will assist in determining product authenticity and traceability.

Professor Pei Li and her research team have been commissioned by Hallyuen Holding Limited since 2011 to develop a breakthrough solution to this urgent problem. After nearly three years of research and development, a series of anticounterfeiting products has been developed, including irremovable coatings and ATE Inks. Printing with ATE Ink can leave irremovable trace marks, thus allowing consumers to detect tampered goods. This technology is pivotal in solving the problem of tracing product information, preventing counterfeiting and in protecting consumers against counterfeit or expired goods.

The anticounterfeit technology adopts a fast-drying formulation which is compatible with various continuous inkjet printers. It is not only applicable to rapid packaging production lines, but can also be printed on different packaging materials. The printed information can withstand physical tampering and leave irremovable trace marks. Users may also choose their preferred trace marks from a selection of ink colours.

“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. More importantly for the society, consumers can rest assured that their purchased food and beverage products are safe as the expiry dates on them are genuine," Professor Li said.

Three patent applications have been filed for the development of ATE Inks. The production of ATE Ink has been scaled up for commercialisation in the Chinese mainland through the partnering company, Hallyuen Holding. Already, the China Mengniu Dairy Company has started using the ATE Ink in its production lines.

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