MSU spearheads research to prevent counterfeit products
From food to spark plugs, counterfeit products are a threat to society — and MSU researchers are on the case.
A team of about 15 MSU researchers is seeking solutions to fake goods as part of the Anti-Counterfeiting and Product Protection Program, or A-CAPPP. The first program of its kind in the nation, A-CAPPP is aimed at eliminating counterfeit products through research and training.
The team is creating a database of counterfeiting cases in the U.S. dating back to 2000, with the goal of identifying criminal patterns. These patterns could be used to implement methods to reduce counterfeiting throughout the world.
The team is comprised of researchers from various colleges and departments at MSU. It is working with federal organizations such as the FBI and officials from industries ranging from technology and automobile parts manufacturers to combat counterfeit products.
The group does not target counterfeit currency, instead focusing on consumable and produced products, said Jeremy Wilson, an associate professor of criminal justice and A-CAPPP’s director.
“The fact of the matter is counterfeiting is a very complex crime,” Wilson said. “There’s a huge social and economic impact beyond counterfeiting.”
The worldwide market for counterfeiting reaches economic heights of about $600 billion, Wilson said. He said counterfeit products have serious health and safety implications for society that many might not realize.
Counterfeit pharmaceuticals, for example, might lead to harmful side effects rather than treating people, Wilson said.
“It’s not just the (financial) bottom lines of companies (that are harmed),” Wilson said.
Wilson said the database hopefully will garner more support for the project. Although it will take about a year to get substantial work done, the team should be able to begin drawing conclusions from the database as it is created, he said.
The data will be drawn from public records that make mention of counterfeiting instances, Wilson said. The team will work to gather more information on individual cases to see if they can draw comparisons between them.
One way the team might combat counterfeit products is through the use of biosensors, or tiny devices embedded into products that prove their legitimacy, said Evangelyn Alocilja, an associate professor of biosystems and agricultural engineering.
Alocilja, who works in MSU’s Nano-Biosensors Lab, said researchers are looking to see how biosensors might combat counterfeiting on consumer, product distribution and manufacturing levels.
“My personal desire is really to help protect the public from harm of counterfeit products and hopefully empower a person or consumer for controlling and evaluating whether they’re getting the true product or not,” Alocilja said. “That’s the long-term goal.”
Michael Rip, director of the program in public health in MSU’s College of Human Medicine, said A-CAPPP combines academic disciplines in a way that effectively researches counterfeiting and provides training to identify such products.
“It’s a nice, integrated program where we’ve got research on campus that’s not just ivory tower research, it’s across industry,” Rip said.
Wilson said once A-CAPPP builds strength, it will have both domestic and international applications for combating counterfeit products.
“We’re looking to become an international hub and go-to institution on this issue,” Wilson said.