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Supplement adulteration is the scourge of industry, but a new innovation from TruTag Technologies offers a cheap, covert way to combat counterfeiting. The tiny, edible silica microtags used previously in medicine and food are now showing up on supplements.
Last May, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned consumers about a counterfeit version of "ExtenZe," a dietary supplement for male sexual enhancement. The counterfeit product looked similar to the actual product, but contained hidden ingredients that can cause serious harm. This wasn't the first, and certainly won't be the last, adulterated, counterfeit supplement to sully the industry. But what if a new technology could prevent products such as these from ever reaching consumers?
Enter TruTag spectral microtags—a cheap, covert way to tag products using edible silica particles. "So many companies and so many products have a security problem that isn't solved by existing technologies," said Peter Wong, COO of TruTag Technologies. "In the case of nutritional supplements, packaging level security is a big business... but even with all that technology there's still a significant counterfeiting and adulteration problem."
TruTag is part of Skai Ventures, a Honolulu-based venture accelerator of disruptive technologies with biomedical and biodefense applications. The silica product evolved from another of Skai's companies, Eyegenix, which makes artificial corneal implants.
The silica is heat-resistant and FDA GRAS affirmed, but will it turn consumers off if they find out about silica in their supplements? Wong doesn't think so. What many people don't realize is "silica is in Advil, in Equal sweetener and even in Taco Bell meat," he said. "It's a common food additive."
Earlier this year, TruTag became an independent business because of the technology's potential in food and drug, as well as in industrial parts, luxury goods and even furniture coatings and cement products. The company is gaining the attention of venture capitalists and angel investors, too. TruTag was named "Most Likely to Succeed" in the Life Sciences category during Launch: Silicon Valley 2011, the premier product launch platform for emerging tech companies around the globe.