Researchers develop edible tags for authenticating whisky and pharmaceuticals

EEdible QR code being placed into glass to authenticate whisky
AUTHENTIC: Consumers can scan the 2D barcode on the tag with their phone to authenticate the product

Researchers at Purdue University in Indiana in the USA and the National Institute of Agricultural Sciences in South Korea have developed edible tags containing a 2D barcode that can be placed in bottles of whisky or pharmaceuticals, enabling consumers to authenticate a product by scanning the code with their smartphone.

The tags are made of a biopolymer manufactured from processed fluorescent silk cocoons from specialised silkworms that can be formed into patterns encoding information, and offer “an additional authentication mechanism for marked safety seals on bottles or pills and could help by being placed in high-dollar bottles of alcohol or on expensive medications individually,” the researchers say.

The team, led by associate professor Young Kim, tested the tags in different brands of whisky and were able to continue reading the tags and codes with a smartphone app over a 10-month period.

How it works

“The code on the fluorescent silk tag is the equivalent of a barcode or QR code and is not visible to the naked eye,” the researchers explain.

“The tags are also edible, causing no issues if a person swallowed it while downing a shot of whisky. The tags have not affected the taste of the whisky.”

“Counterfeit items, such as medicines and alcohol, are big issues around the world,” Young Kim adds.

“Online pharmacies sell controlled substances to teens. People can buy counterfeit opioids easily. This work is extremely important for patients and buyers in addressing this issue.

“If you have this technology on or in your medicines, you can use your smartphone to authenticate. We want to empower patients to be aware of this issue. We want to work with pharmaceutical companies and alcohol producers to help them address this issue.” 

A short video shows how the tags work:

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