Archive for August 24th, 2023

Service of What’s Mine is Not Yours

Thursday, August 24th, 2023

There have been countless news features about people breaking windows and display cases and wholesale robbing jewelry and handbags from high fashion stores as well as swooping items off drugstore shelves and goods from the ground floor of department stores.

Many of us have been impacted as well by cybertheft.

Some theft is subtler than what happens when thieves break into stores and smash display cases. Manufacturers of luxury goods and foods have long fought counterfeiters who charge a few hundred dollars for fake $5,000 handbags or palm off cheap versions of pricey cheese or wine as the real thing.

Is this “real” Parmesan?

The Parmesan cheese people in Italy have come up with a new way to fight the makers of fake parmesan by putting a chip in the skin of their wheels wrote Joanna Partridge in The Guardian. When I heard about the embedded microtransponders I thought of jars of pitted olives or cherries and how even with the pitted claim, I’m careful as it’s so easy to munch on a rogue pit and crack a tooth.

I don’t think we need to worry about swallowing or chomping into these teensy chips—she says that are about the size of a grain of salt inserted in the label—because neither I, nor most others, eats parmesan’s hard outer skin and certainly not the label.

Partridge reported that parmesan, which she noted was first made by Benedictine and Cistercian monks over 1,000 years ago, “is one of the most counterfeited cheeses in the world.”

She continued: “The cheese, which can trace its history back to the middle ages, gained the EU’s prized protected designation of origin (PDO) status in 1996. Under those rules parmigiano reggiano – the only kind which can be called parmesan within Europe – must be made in a small part of northern Italy, including in the provinces of Parma and Reggio Emilia.”

The extensive PDO list is fascinating. It ranges from brands I’ve never heard of such as Dons wine from Southern Denmark and Lapin Puikula, a potato from Lapland to Abondance, a cheese from Haute Savoie, and the better-known Champagne and Camembert de Normandie. 

The chip should help to confirm that stores, where PDO rules prevail***, are buying and paying for the right 88lb wheel of parm but I’m not sure how consumers will know whether the chunks they purchase are knockoffs or real. Partridge reported that “Last year, the PRC was successful in blocking the US food giant Kraft Heinz from registering the ‘Kraft parmesan cheese’ trademark in Ecuador, and hailed this as a notable victory, given that the EU’s PDO status is not recognised everywhere outside Europe.”

***The United States does not recognize it. Should it? Do you wonder, when paying a lot or a little for well-known products, such as parmesan, that you may not be buying the real thing?

Do you think that the chip will help discourage faux parmesan sellers in the EU and UK and effectively protect the brand? Have you seen other ways luxury brands protect their goods? Can you think of more effective steps food and wine producers and manufacturers can take?

Coach on Fifth Avenue, Manhattan
Ferragamo on Fifth Avenue, Manhattan
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