Indelible ink helps secure Chinese dairy products

ATE ink - PolyUResearchers in Hong Kong have developed an 'anti-erasing' ink that they claim can be used to authenticate and trace products.

The team from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) say the ink can be used in various continuous inkjet printers, comes on a variety of colours and is impossible to remove without leaving evidence of tampering.

The anti-erasing (ATE) ink can be used to protect various kinds of fast-moving consumer goods such as food, drink and drug packaging, according to the researchers, who are led by Professor Pei Li of PolyU's Department of Applied Biology and Chemical Technology.

"With the adoption of ATE Ink, product manufacturers now have an effective tool to combat counterfeit and tampered products that could result in disastrous impact on … operations and goodwill," said Prof Li.

"More importantly for the society, consumers can be rest assured that their purchased food and beverage products are safe as the expiry dates on them are genuine," he added.

The ATE ink technology was developed by PolyU on behalf of Chinese technology firm Hallyuen Holding Limited as part of a broad anti-counterfeit R&D programme that has also looked at approaches such as irremovable coatings.

Meanwhile, the first customers for the inks are already in place, according to PolyU, and given recent food scandals in China - including the melamine contamination incident which killed six infants and injured hundreds of thousands in 2008 - it is unsurprising that a dairy company is the first to jump on board.

China Mengniu Dairy Company has already started using the ATE Ink in their production lines, while other companies have also expressed an interest in adopting it, according to the university.

Reselling of spoiled goods or lost inventory and contaminated products are becoming common practices even in sizable markets in the world, thus threatening public health and tarnishing consumer confidence and brand value, it said.

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