UTAS team developing new way to stop Asian cherry counterfeiters

A man whose all time favourite fruit is cherries has landed a three year federal grant to stop criminals overseas from passing off inferior cherries as coming from Tasmania. UTAS associate Professor Jiangang Fei said counterfeiters in Asia put a lot of money into making packaging that looked identical to Tasmanian packaging because the high price of the state's fruit made it worth their while.

"Counterfeiting is common because of the incentive with the premium price, and they are willing to invest money into it." He said the $455,000 grant would fund his team to find a solution that customers could use to trace where the cherries came from, with all the steps along the way to the sale point.

It would later be adapted and extended to all types of state produce. The cloud-based system is likely to use tiny sensors which could record data like when and where the cherries were packaged, the variety, compliance, food safety, temperature and so forth.

Associate Professor Fei said consumers would pay a very high price for Tasmanian produce, especially cherries, and they needed to know they were getting the genuine product.

"Consumers cannot tell which is real and which is fake.

"More importantly to Tasmania growers, it is a replication issue. If people buy something they believe is from Tasmania but it is from South America, the quality will be different. "So the consumer will think this is not very good quality and I paid $200 so I won't get it again.

"If the reputation is damaged, it is not just to a single product, it is to the wider range of products from Tasmania." He said a new system was needed because current technologies like QR codes and bar codes could be easily printed.

The tracing system would also increase safety. "We found needles in a product. Under our system, if we have traceability, we can find that much faster."

Fruit Growers Tasmania CEO Peter Cornish said the project was very important to stop people undermining the name and quality of Tasmanian fruit.

"Our members have had issues for some time with counterfeiting. Our exporters set a standard for the quality of the fruit and people are willing to pay very handsomely for that.

"(The solution) has to be practical and extendable and people need to adopt it. It has to be easily usable."

Source: The Examiner

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