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A chemical fingerprinting process, which enables verification of the origin of New Zealand produce, has been developed by Dunedin company Oritain.

In this RNZ programme Oritain’s lead scientist Rebecca McLeod explains to Ruth Beran the chemical analysis and database system that enables them to authenticate the origin of New Zealand produce: Food provenance.

Duration: 16:28

New Zealand has a reputation for having rigorous food safety standards and high-quality produce. Consequently, there is a high risk of food fraud, and food contamination incidents around the world are driving the need to protect this reputation.

Oritain’s lead scientist Rebecca McLeod explains to Ruth Beran the chemical analysis and database system that enables them to authenticate the origin of New Zealand produce.

Geographical differences reflected in chemistry of environment

All animals and plants absorb the natural chemical properties of their environment. This process scientifically links plants and animals to their place of origin. Oritain uses these chemical differences in the environment to determine specifications for the origin of food products.

Chemical analysis determines food’s chemical fingerprint

Oritain collects samples of clients’ produce and uses mass spectrometry to measure the concentrations of all the chemical elements. This provides a chemical fingerprint of the food. Rebecca explains how this process varies for different foods, such as apples, infant formula, meat and honey.

Data collection and storage preserve scientific evidence

Food samples are freeze-dried and archived and the chemical analysis recorded. If a product is later suspected of being fake, it can be compared with Oritain’s database. All data collection and storage is conducted to high forensic standards to preserve the scientific evidence and ensure authenticity. It’s possible that information held by Oritain may one day be used in court to prove whether or not produce comes from New Zealand.

Useful links

Visit the Oritain website to find out more about their assurance process.

This news article from 2017 covers how Oritain's 'fingerprinting' of free range eggs and other premium products is helping deter food fraud.

Programme details: Our Changing World.

    Published 27 November 2013 Referencing Hub articles