Italians are microchipping Parmesan to crack down on bootleg cheese

Originally published at: Italians are microchipping Parmesan to crack down on bootleg cheese | Boing Boing

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Neat. I keep telling myself that one day I’ll write a book on the occult art of Tryomancy.


which I assume is basically a cheese mafia

If this is anything like the counterfeit olive oil operations in Italy, the counterfeiters are probably the literal mafia


There was a scene from the original Blade Runner where a synthetic snake’s scale revealed its maker’s serial number. Snakes aren’t particularly valuable commodities yet, but we’re getting closer in marking IP


Yeah, this is more like the parmesan producers’ equivalent of a counter-counterfeit squad.


ISO 9001 Parmesan, where the paperwork outweighs the cheese.


The cheese mafias aside; the vendor behind this story seems like an interesting outfit.

P-Chip says that they can do serialized transponder ICs smaller and cheaper than RFID, and with better thermal and chemical stability.

The various patents whose current assignee is “P-Chip IP Holdings” (like this one) mostly seem to have originated with Pharmaseq LLC; which did different stuff but is apparently wrapping that up now(whether out of desperation or opportunity) to focus on the tagging system that they were previously applying to test tubes and other laboratory automation/sample handling vessels.

Apparently these are optically triggered, rather than RF, and passivated by a silicon dioxide layer(rather than the larger and presumably more expensive glass encapsulated RF chips like they use for pets); but I’m not entirely sure how that is intended to work in situations where the product is opaque and the implantation is a little unpredictable.

There’s also something about blockchain; but that’s just a fluff layer unrelated to the implementation of the actual tags.

Their site is currently leaning real heavily on cheese-branding as the single concrete use case(with links to a bunch of general-interest publications about the story; curiously light on technical descriptions or successes from the PharmaSeq days) with most other use cases being hypothetical.

I’m curious as to whether this is just what having to start somewhere looks like; or whether there’s a reason why such a promising technology has gone untapped by customers aside from one cheese localization consortium.


Well I sure hope so. These wheels cost thousands of dollars, and you can get anti-counterfeiting microchips for pennies to a few dollars at most. People even talk about putting cheap versions of them in individual retail-sized packages of much less expensive foods, which doesn’t quite make economic sense but isn’t obviously implausible in many cases.


I like the parmesean cheese we buy. It’s probably not ‘authentic’ but I really couldn’t care less. If the US adopted the EU rule, then this cheese I’m enjoying would get a new name and it would still be OK with me.

This fight is about money and creating artificial scarcity to make more money.

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More a cartel.


American parmesan cheese tend to be rather homogenous, while parmegianno regianno has distinct crystals of concentrated flavor.


Yeah, what the people who are laughing don’t get is that these cheeses can truly cost thousands upon thousands of dollars, so people (I can think of at least one place here in Chicago which brags about the unique Parmesan they source for their menu) paying these top dollars want to make sure they’re getting the real deal.

My dad sold wine, super high-end stuff, and passed a lot of the knowledge onto me, and I still keep myself aware of that world (even though I don’t drink anymore) and I could see this taking off in the ultra-high-end to high-end wine market. THAT is an industry chock-a-block with counterfiting.


Is it possible to accidentally ingest one of these chips if you eat the cheese too quickly?

Asking for a friend who… oh hey I think I have 5G now. Never mind!


I seem to recall that there are some recipes that use the rinds.


The overlap between the cheese mafia and the actual Italian mafia is almost certainly greater than zero…


True although the broth I dump it into may cancel out the chip. So much for that great reception!

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They can be added to minestrone, or almost any soup or broth.
TBH, I think I’ve never thrown away a Parmigiano rind, usually I just scrape the exterior with a knife and scorch them on the gas stove.
A bit medieval, but, oh so tasty!
So if they start embedding stuff in it I might end up eating some.

About counterfeiting:
Am a bit of an antifoo - as in anti-foodie.
As usual, Italian culinary tradition is 20% truth, 20% utter lies and fabulation for the rest.
Strangely enough, according to some reliable food historians, some of the parmesan produced in the U.S.A. might be closer to the original, traditional, Italian one than the DOP (protected origin denomination) one we commonly buy (and love!) today.
In fact, while being originally from Parma, its production there was interrupted for a long time.
Napoleon sent a researcher to investigate about this famed tasty and energetic cheese (a godsend for infantry!) but he could not find any producer in Parma’s province. He was sent further north, where Grana Padano was (and still is) being produced.
In Sweden, I appreciate Västerbotten cheese a lot, something almost, but not quite entirely unlike Parmigiano.

That said, counterfeiting is criminal.


Some of the american fakes are too salty, too rubbery, and not crumbly.

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A friend shared this one earlier.