Do you know where that's been?

Cheesed Off

No, this is not some harebrained conspiracy theory fueled by Big Cheese.

Italian Parmigiano Reggiano cheesemakers, who make "real" parmesan cheese, are inserting tracking chips into the rinds of their cheese wheels in an effort to undermine shady competitors who falsely claim they make real parmesan cheese, Food & Wine reports.

Just like how Champagne can technically only originate in the Champagne region of France, a European Union court upheld a law in 2008 that cheese can only be sold as "parmesan" if it is made by Reggiano makers in Italy.

Despite their best efforts, counterfeit parmesan has ballooned into a multibillion dollar market, coming close to the size of the real parmesan market, a trend that has Italian cheesemakers worried, according to Food & Wine — spurring the need for the tracking tech.

Cheese Crime

So Parmigiano Reggiano came up with a surprisingly high tech solution. To defend each of their wheels as true parmesan, the Parmigiano Reggiano Consortium, a trade union established in 1934, is teaming up with a Dutch company that specializes in making "casein cheesemarks" called p-Chips.

These chips are tiny transponders that give each wheel of parmesan a unique and scannable food tag. Each of these tags, which are both food-safe and smaller than a grain of salt, are then stored on a blockchain —where else? — and can easily be traced.

Track and Trace

It's a big upgrade over the tracking codes cheesemakers have been using for two decades.

"By integrating p-Chip micro transponders into Casein tags, [the Consortium] can better control its inventory, protect and differentiate its products against look and sound-alike brands and have access to unmatchable track-and-trace technology to protect itself in the case of recalls or other issues," Joe Wagner, CEO of p-Chip Corporation, in an announcement.

In the second quarter of 2022 alone, the Consortium is adding smart labels to 100,000 parmesan wheels before they decide if they want to stick with the technology going forward.

So don't worry, the next time you buy a cheese labeled "Parmigiano Reggiano" at the grocery store, you can hopefully rest assured that it really is.

READ MORE: Parmigiano Reggiano Makers Are Embedding Tiny Trackers in the Rind to Fight Cheese Fraud

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