Italians are microchipping Parmesan to crack down on bootleg cheese

Like the difference between champagne and other sparkling wines, parmiagiano cheese is distinguished from other deliciously hard and nutty cheeses by its regional origins. Under EU regulations, parmigiano reggiano cheese is the only cheese allowed to be referred to as "parmesan," and it must be made and matured for at least 12 months in the northern Italian provinces of Parma and Reggio Emilia.

But with the rise of COUNTERFEIT CHEESE, the Parmigiano Reggiano Consortium (PRC) — which I assume is basically a cheese mafia? — is taking actions its own hands. Specifically, by microchipping it. As The Guardian reports:

The PRC estimates that annual global sales of counterfeit cheese reach about $2bn (£1.6bn), not far off those of the authentic product, which hit a record high of €2.9bn last year.

Now producers have been trialling the most modern of authentication methods – microtransponders about the size of a grain of salt inserted into the labels found on the rind of 120,000 wheels of parmigiano reggiano. The microchips are food-safe, but are unlikely to be eaten, given their location in the cheese's hard skin, which is made from the milk protein casein.

The chips work as long-lasting, scannable food tags that allow consumers to track their product back to where it originated. Made by the US company p-Chip Corporation, they are embedded directly into a QR code label, and function like "tiny digital anchors for physical items", according to the company.

Cheese and chips: parmesan producers fight fakes with microtransponders [Joanna Partridge / The Guardian]