The Big Cheese

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Italian producers of the famous Parmigiano Reggiano cheese are putting microchips in their products, as a part of an effort to fight copycats and enforce their dairy product’s protected status, CBS News reported.

Parmigiano Reggiano – also known as parmesan – is one of the world’s most counterfeited dairy products, with many competing manufacturers producing cheaper imitations of the cheese, which is often used for pasta and salad toppings.

The cheese product has a protected “designation of origin” listing under European Union law, which means it must be made in a small area of northern Italy, including in the provinces of Parma and Reggio Emilia, to be allowed to be called Parmigiana Reggiano.

Now, Italy’s association that oversees the Parmigiana Reggiano’s production, the Parmigiano Reggiano Consortium (PRC), said it will start putting microchips in their product as part of a trial which would allow consumers to trace the cheese back to its place of origin.

The chips will be the size of a grain of salt and will be placed on the labels of about 120,000 wheels of the cheese. The chips work as scannable food tags with a QR code label.

PRC representatives said the initiative will help ensure consumer safety and the product’s protected status.

Parmigiano Reggiano lacks protected status in the United States, which has led American manufacturers to create various ‘parmesan’ cheese types.

Beyond the US, the PRC effectively prevented the American food giant Kraft Heinz from trademarking “Kraft parmesan cheese” in Ecuador in 2022.

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