Today we learned that olive oil counterfeiting is a real thing, and not the plot of some future Wes Anderson movie. We also learned that olive oil counterfeiters’ days might be numbered thanks to some tiny DNA particles that could allow the oil to be verified as authentic. Way to tackle the big issues, science.
According to authorities, food counterfeiting is actually a pretty significant problem. It generates millions in revenue for organised crime. Interpol and Europol has seized 1,200 metric tons of counterfeit or “substandard” food, as well as 430,000 liters of beverages. The problem up until now has been the challenge in labeling the products themselves — not just their containers. DNA nanoparticles solve that problem.
Artificial DNA is given a silica coating to protect it from light, chemicals, and temperature changes that would damage it. The resulting nanoparticle can be added to olive oil, and likely other foods and products as well. If the authenticity of the oil comes into question, the nanoparticles can be extracted and matched with a record of where that particular particle originated.
Olive oil isn’t the only application for this technology. Gasoline, cosmetics, and more products subject to counterfeiting could embrace this inexpensive and relatively easy to use method of product verification.
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