There could be a microchip hidden in your cheese

Guaranteed no cheese: microchips.  (Image: Javier Somoza_ZinetroN -

Guaranteed no cheese: microchips. (Image: Javier Somoza_ZinetroN –

In Reggio Emilia and Parma there are no chips and cheese, but chips in the cheese, because when it comes to Italian cultural heritage, the fun stops.

To confirm the authenticity of Parmigiano Reggiano, Italian dairies now use tiny microchips.

The Parmesan certificate

Parmesan is not just Parmesan because the cheese has a protected designation of origin (PDO) from the EU.

So that a cheese Parmesan can be named, it must meet certain criteria. He must:

  • Must have been made in Parma or neighboring regions.
  • Be manufactured in accordance with established production standards.
  • Matured for 12 months in the mountainous region of northern Italy.
  • Pass the quality test by experts.

If this is not the case, the cheese may not have the name Parmesan carry. Types of hard cheese, often called Parmesan or Parmesan Cheese are usually imitations or variations of the original cheese.

Image: DVision -

Image: DVision –

Real Parmesan is expensive. A medium-quality cheese costs 15 to 20 euros per kilo, while particularly long-matured Parmesan costs up to 60 euros.

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A prime target for product piracy.

The figures from The Guardian show that it works. Real Parmesan went on sale for a total of 2.9 billion euros in 2022, but the fake version is not far behind: the fake cheese also has sales of 2 billion euros worldwide.

With microchips against Parmesan pirates

How do you make sure that a cheese has actually gone through the process and can be called Parmesan? Of course, with microchips!

Microtransponders the size of a grain of salt are inserted into the labels on the rind of 120,000 wheels of Parmigiano Reggiano. The microchips are food safe, but are unlikely to be eaten because they are in the hard shell of the cheese.

Graphic: The Guardian, Image: p-Chip

Graphic: The Guardian, Image: p-Chip

How do the chips work?

The 0.5 x 0.5 millimeter microchips are made of silicon and can even survive our stomach acid. Therefore, according to the manufacturer, they can be eaten without hesitation as they are excreted in the usual way.

A robot places the chip on the bark and activates it. Blockchain technology is used to authenticate each wheel of cheese individually.

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The chips can even be used to determine the place of origin of the cheese. The path of the cheese wheel is tracked, which also protects against theft.

The new method for tracing the cheese was created as part of a partnership between the PRC, the US chip manufacturer p-Chip and the Dutch-French cheese brand Kaasmerk Matec.

The microchips are just a further development of what has been done before.

Under the previous system, all cheese wheels carried a casein plate with a unique and sequential alphanumeric code. This code formed a distinctive dot pattern running around the loaf and included the month and year of production.

This isn’t the first time technology and food have come together:

Still hungry? I cooked with ChefGPT for a week and this is what I came up with.

Technology is used in the most unlikely places: dairies in northern Italy use tiny microchips to verify the authenticity of their product – and you can eat them too. What do you think about the idea? Have you ever come across technology where you didn’t expect it? Feel free to write it in the comments.

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