Japanese team discovers way to determine country of origin for produce

A team led by Nippon Telegraph and Telephone has devised a method to determine where fruits and vegetables were grown based on slight differences in water molecules, which could help curb false advertising.

NTT Software will launch a service as early as this fall where consumers can mail in produce to find out where it came from.

Imports of farm produce are expected to jump once the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact takes effect. The new technology will allow supermarkets, restaurants and consumers to correctly identify where their food was really grown.

The process involves grinding up fruits and vegetables to analyze three water isotopes using a special sensor. The combination of these water molecules differs based on geographic regions and is reflected in the water contained in crops.

The method successfully differentiated between Japanese and Chinese carrots in about an hour or two in a joint experiment with food services company Shidax. It also correctly identified crops grown in Japan’s Kumamoto and Chiba prefectures.

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