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olive oil

Fraud-fighting nanotag

Artificial DNA identifies counterfeit olive oil

Eduardo CesarArtificial DNA identifies counterfeit olive oilEduardo Cesar

An invisible tag mixed into your olive oil may be the newest solution against fraud and counterfeiting in this type of product. Researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich (ETH, in the German acronym) have announced that they’ve successfully produced a marker for olive oil, using a tiny piece of artificial genetic material. The tag, made of synthetic DNA coated with silica, measures no more than a nanometer (a millionth of a millimeter). It cannot be replaced or removed from the product and doesn’t alter its color or flavor. Taking a small sample of olive oil and analyzing it in a laboratory can confirm its origin and determine whether any tampering has taken place, with the addition of other types of oil. For easier identification, the DNA nanoparticle tag is marked with magnetic iron oxide. The tags could also be mixed into gasoline and perfumes. The researchers believe that consumers will not be repelled by olive oil or other edible products that contain silica and iron oxide. Silica is already present in ketchups, sauces, and juices, and iron is a widespread food additive. The new technology may meet the world’s demand for a way to identify counterfeit food. In a joint operation early in 2014, Interpol and Europol confiscated over 1,200 metric tons of fake food products and 430,000 liters of counterfeit beverages. The study was published in the journal ACS Nano on March 25, 2014.