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Authenticating Medications and Products

By: Ian Murnaghan BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 21 May 2012 | comments*Discuss
Authenticating Medications Products

With the masses of medications, food products and other consumer goods on the market today, counterfeit products are an unfortunate reality. While the majority of drugs and goods are authentic and legitimate, testing is an important way to hold companies accountable for their products. Currently, the use of DNA has become an important tool for authenticating prescription medications and products.

Authenticating Food Products

There are several ways to use DNA content in food to determine the nature of a food product. Most of these methods relate to meat and fish products and they can be used to authenticate the species. Although they can be expensive, they are still an important aspect of food authentication.

False Labelling

False labelling has become a growing problem in both Europe and North America. In particular, many consumers are worried about genetically modified (GM) foods. Another issue is misleading labelling regarding herbal supplements. In one example, American ginseng is priced substantially higher than standard ginseng but a product may be labelled as American ginseng when, in fact, it is merely standard ginseng. This allows a company to price their product much higher. As such, finding a reliable and accurate way to authenticate the goods is important to safeguard consumer faith in a product and ensure that a company is honest regarding its product.

DNA fingerprinting has emerged as a valuable tool in the challenge to authenticate herbal supplements. It is becoming increasingly important to protect consumer trust in a product. However, DNA fingerprinting does still have challenges. For example, in the case of wine there is little DNA remaining in bottled wine after it is filtrated. As such, it is difficult for a laboratory to properly analyse the complete range of grapes that are utilised as well as confirm their origins.

Security and DNA

While many of us are more familiar with the biological applications of DNA, there is an enormous market for the security sector as well. Since DNA can store large volumes of information, it has great potential in this field. It has become an increasingly useful tool for verifying replacement parts for airplanes. DNA is essentially modified into a labelling product to verify the authenticity of a product. It works as a 'tag' of sorts to confirm that a product is precisely what a company claims it to be.

Another company utilises strands of DNA that are extracted from plants. Then, it modifies the strands to produce a special tag that marks products. These tags can verify a range of products, such as the origin of the cotton in a pair of trousers or the assembly origin of consumer goods. One difficulty in finding ways to use DNA for product authentication has been that it tends to degrade after several months. Now, however, DNA is essentially placed in a tiny capsule that allows it to withstand the manufacturing process.

Fake Versus Designer

DNA also has applications in authenticating textile products and similar consumer goods. Generally, DNA is dissolved in a fluid, which is then added to various manufacturing products such as ink or textiles. One company uses a DNA marker that is embedded in its sewing thread. If a person examined two different purses, for instance, it could be determined which is the fake by looking for the DNA thread.

Gasoline and DNA

Another application of DNA for authenticating products is related to gasoline sales. To address the sales of stolen gasoline, one company began working with chemical companies to find a viable solution. The result was the use of a DNA marker that has proved quite successful.

We all want the comfort and safety of knowing that the products we purchase for use or ingestion are precisely what the manufacturers claim them to be, but the reality is that illegitimate claims and goods are produced. With the use of DNA, however, we are better equipped to authenticate products.

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Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
I find the use of DNA in testing for false products fascinating.I bought some perfume for my girlfriend off a market stall for a tenner.I would have ad it tested and gone back if it was worth it. I reckon it would be very cost effective though!!Great article.
DNAinterested - 21-May-12 @ 5:48 PM
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