Blockchain Technology Employed by Italian Producers of Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese for Countering Fake Products
In an ongoing battle against counterfeit products, Italian producers of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese are adopting an innovative approach: installing edible microchips on their renowned 90-pound cheese wheels. This strategic move represents the latest development in the ceaseless competition between creators of genuine goods and those producing imitations.
The newly introduced silicon microchips, crafted by Chicago-based p-Chip, incorporate the cutting-edge capabilities of blockchain technology. These microchips play a pivotal role in authenticating data that can effectively trace the origins of the cheese, reaching back to the milk producer. The aim is to ensure transparency and legitimacy in the production process and supply chain.
A Technological Solution to Preserve the Integrity of Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese
Over the past year, extensive trials have been conducted on more than 100,000 Parmigiano wheels to assess the performance of these p-Chips. The consortium of producers is meticulously evaluating the chips’ ability to withstand Parmigiano’s aging stipulations. Notably, the aging requirement for Parmigiano cheese spans at least one year, while some variations may exceed three years.
The advanced p-Chips exhibit a remarkable degree of durability. These chips have been designed to endure extreme temperature fluctuations, and they can even be read through substances like ice. Furthermore, they have proven their resilience to prolonged storage in liquid nitrogen—a feat that conventional Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) chips struggle to achieve due to their larger size and fragility. p-Chip’s Chief Technology Officer, Bill Eibon, confirms that the p-Chips outperform RFID chips in terms of both durability and versatility.
Incorporating the microchips into the Parmigiano cheese wheels involves a robot-assisted process. The microchip is positioned atop the cheese wheel’s casein label—a small plaque derived from milk protein and commonly used in the cheese industry. A handheld reader is utilized to extract data from these chips, which are relatively inexpensive and resemble the microchips implanted under the skin of pets for identification purposes.
Notably, the microchips are not remotely readable, a design choice that addresses potential privacy concerns. Rigorous lab testing has confirmed the microchips’ resilience in various scenarios. For instance, the chips demonstrated their ability to endure three weeks within a simulated stomach acid environment without any risk of leakage. Bill Eibon, the CTO of p-Chip, even took the bold step of consuming one of these chips to showcase their safety. He, however, refrains from promoting this action to avoid misconceptions about tracking individuals. It is essential to emphasize that the microchips cannot be read remotely once ingested, and any notion of tracking is beyond their capabilities.
The adoption of these edible microchips extends beyond the realm of cheese. Pharmaceutical giant Merck KGaA is slated to adopt the same chips for various applications. Moreover, the automotive sector is exploring the potential of these chips to authenticate car parts—an innovation that may curb counterfeiting in this industry as well.
As the battle between authenticity and imitation rages on, the introduction of edible microchips stands as a testament to technology’s transformative influence. In safeguarding the integrity of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, these microchips demonstrate their potential to revolutionize industries and protect the essence of renowned products from the threat of counterfeits.