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Australian companies join Alibaba in food-fraud fight

Australia Post, Blackmores and PwC team up with the Chinese e-commerce giant to explore technology that could help eliminate fake ingredients.

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Fake food is a real problem.

Getty Images/Dorling Kindersley

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba is fighting counterfeits of all sorts, including food.

The company has joined up with professional services network PwC to explore the use of tracking technologies, such as the one behind bitcoin digital currency, to combat fake ingredients in foods. Postal service provider Australia Post and Australia-based natural health company Blackmores will also participate in the project.

Food fraud has become a serious issue in China, where cases of fake food items have led to widespread mistrust in Chinese food manufacturers. In January, authorities began investigating claims of a "fake food manufacturing hub" in Tianjin, China. A booming import business in which enterprising overseas Chinese buy out food stocks, such as baby formula, have led to local supplies running out as well.

The global food industry loses an estimated $49 billion every year due to food fraud. Foods most commonly subjected to fraud include fruit juices, olive oil and spices, according to Australian Food News.

The project will help Alibaba explore new technologies aimed at improving the traceability of food origins to reduce the risk of food fraud, according to a statement. Using blockchain -- the technology behind bitcoins -- would allow Alibaba to decode the DNA of foods and track it through the supply chain to ensure authenticity.

An Alibaba representative declined CNET's request for comment.

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