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Protecting olive oil from counterfeiters - nano-labels

Who guarantees that expensive olive oil isn't counterfeited or adulterated? Scientists from the ETH Zurich in Switzerland developed a new method that makes counterfeiting and fraudulent labelling significantly more difficult: they labelled olive oil with DNA-containing nanoparticles. The nano-tag is invisible, inexpensive and easy to detect - but customers will accept such an additive in high quality oil?

 

Just a few grams of the new substance are enough to tag the entire olive oil production of Italy. If counterfeiting were suspected, the particles added at the place of origin could be extracted from the oil and analysed, enabling a definitive identification of the producer. "The method is equivalent to a label that cannot be removed," says Robert Grass, lecturer in the Department of Chemistry and Applied Biosciences (D-CHAB) at ETH Zurich.

 

The worldwide need for anti-counterfeiting labels for food is substantial. In a joint operation in December 2013 and January 2014, Interpol and Europol confiscated more than 1,200 tonnes of counterfeit or substandard food and almost 430,000 litres of counterfeit beverages. The illegal trade is run by organised criminal groups that generate millions in profits, say the authorities. The confiscated goods also included more than 131,000 litres of oil and vinegar.

 

Experiments in the lab showed that the tiny tags dispersed well in the oil and did not result in any visual changes. They also remained stable when heated and weathered an ageing trial unscathed. The magnetic iron oxide, meanwhile, made it easy to extract the particles from the oil.

Petrol could also be tagged using this method and the technology could be used in the cosmetics industry as well. In trials the researchers also successfully tagged expensive Bergamot essential oil, which is used as a raw material in perfumes....

 

Read the full press release at https://www.ethz.ch/en/news-and-events/eth-news/news/2014/04/olivenoel-vor-faelschern-schuetzen.html.

 

Original Publication

Michela Puddu , Daniela Paunescu , Wendelin J. Stark , and Robert N. Grass (2014). Magnetically Recoverable, Thermostable, Hydrophobic DNA/Silica Encapsulates and Their Application as Invisible Oil Tags. ACS Nano, 2014, 8 (3), pp 2677–2685. DOI: 10.1021/nn4063853.

 

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Information on the sponsorship programmes of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research on nanotechnologies for humans and the environment.

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A database with important and generally understandable aspects on health and environment of applied nanomaterials as well as facts on the safety of manufactured nanomaterials.

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The chapters on release, exposure, uptake and behavior of nanomaterials in the human body and in the environment as well as the risk assessment will give you a first overview.

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