Researchers from the Swiss agricultural research centre Agroscope have isolated unique lactic acid bacteria that can serve as a “barcode” to help distinguish original Appenzeller cheese from counterfeits.
It took scientists five years to identify the unique bacteria - once found naturally in milk from the Appenzeller region - and develop them into one-of-a-kind markers for Appenzeller cheese. The special bacteria are multiplied in bioreactors and added before the cheese making process begins, giving each morsel of cheese its very own “barcode”.
“Identifying the unique bacteria was the most difficult part but testing their efficacy also took a long time because it takes four months for the cheese to mature,” project leader Petra Lüdin, told swissinfo.ch. “Besides the unique signature, the bacteria must not affect the cheese taste or texture.”
According to the researcher, the technique has been patented by Agroscope and has also been used for other famous Swiss cheeses like Emmental in 2011 and Tête de Moine in 2013.
Every wheel of Appenzeller cheese already has a “cheese certificate” embossed in it that has a dairy number, the guarantee of origin, the production date and a consecutive number. But company officials felt that opportunity for fraud still exists.
“You can find counterfeit Appenzeller cheese in markets in Germany and France, where cheese is sold in small pieces to justify the absence of the cheese certificate label,” Alfred Ammann, head of quality at SO Appenzeller Käse GmbH told swissinfo.ch.
The company has incorporated the bacterial markers in its production process from July 1 onwards.