Within the last decade, the crime of counterfeiting items that we use every day has reached epidemic proportions. Whether it is electronics, textiles, pharmaceuticals, contact lenses, or even food, recent reports of counterfeiting can be tied to almost anything. In my business, which is the sale of obsolete and hard-to-find material for military applications, we have become very aware of the dangers posed by counterfeits. Fortunately, both regulating bodies and the media are beginning to improve consumer awareness.
The Defense Logistics Agency and Seafood
I decided to write this post because of an article I read just last week on the seafood industry. (The full article can be read here.) It explained a report that was recently issued by global regulatory body OCEANA, which stated that one-third of the fish that they had sampled had been incorrectly labeled. The report revealed amazing statistics. In the US, the highest amount of fraud was found in Red Snapper: of 120 samples labeled Red Snapper, only 7 fish were actually Red Snappers. Instead they found Tilapia, Rockfish, and Tilefish a species that is known to contain Mercury and can be dangerous to pregnant women. In the United States we import nearly 90% of our seafood and only 2% is inspected at the border. Keep in mind, however, that those inspections are not necessarily looking for fraud. The article reports that OCEANA is pushing Congress to pass legislation introduced in March, called the SAFE Act. This Act would provide more detailed information on how and where fish were caught, and it would also allow for more and better sharing of data between regulatory bodies like the FDA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, specifically regarding inspections. Additionally, it would result in total traceability to allow customers to view the path of their food from the ocean to their plate. A company in New England is already leading the charge through the use of QR Codes, which originated as machine-readable barcodes and have recently become widespread in advertising (for more information about QR Codes, click here).
In the United States, two bodies of legislation the Safety and Fraud Enforcement for Seafood Act and the Food Safety Modernization Act have been developed to both increase the reliability of seafood labeling and to generate consumer awareness. This legislation would allow full visibility from boat to plate, including where and how the fish were caught.
I found this fascinating given that in my business as a QTSL-qualified company that supplies parts to the Defense Logistics Agency, and ultimately the U.S. militarys supply chain, similar actions are taking place. Just like the SAFE Act requires transparency, the Defense Logistics Agency is hoping to accomplish the same type of transparency with their QTSL program and DNA marking requirements. The combination of these two programs allows the DLA to establish a new form of traceability on items that are needed, but are obsolete and no longer have the required traceability paperwork. If the component is unable to be traced to the original component manufacturer (OCM), then the QTSL program requires that the component be tested for authenticity. Once the component has been tested it is then marked with specialized DNA to permanently allow quick verification of the parts history within the supply chain.
Counterfeiters Endangering Our Military
To highlight the severity of what I am referring to, I point to an article that made headlines because of the potential impact to U.S nuclear submarines. Massachusetts resident Peter Picone has been charged with importing counterfeit semiconductors and then selling them to customers throughout the United States. The article states that the semiconductors were intended for use on US nuclear submarines. This is one of the latest reports on counterfeit components entering our militarys supply chain, and it comes at a very important time. The Department of Defense is currently deliberating on DFARS Case D055-2012. This ruling is expected to set new guidance by the Department of Defense which will affect the supply chain and how they mitigate exposure to counterfeit components. The Department of Defense has also recently adopted the AS6081 Counterfeit Avoidance Standard for distributors. As the first company to certify to this standard, we believe strongly in the implementation of these accredited standards to ensure an authenticated supply chain. AS6081 is an internationally accredited standard developed by SAE International, and is the result of the aerospace and defense industry uniting to both provide a solution to the problem of counterfeiting and to prevent additional counterfeit components from entering the military supply chain.
Protect yourself, your family and your Job!
Awareness and prevention tactics are the first steps to address this epidemic. It is imperative that every one of us are aware of the dangers that counterfeits pose to our country. Whether it is your pets medication, the food on your dinner table, or material heading for our military supply chain, counterfeit goods affects each and every one of us. Whether you are a purchasing agent or a citizen, our suggestion is that when you purchase anything from an other-than-authorized source you should first ask yourself these questions: What is the consequence if this item is not authentic? What could happen if this part is counterfeit? If the item you are purchasing is vital and you require an authentic item we recommend you purchase from a certified company that has procedure in place to assure that you are receiving authentic material. The internet has made buying items at the cheapest price very easy and convenient, but the fact is it has also opened up a new market for those wishing to profit by selling counterfeit goods. Be smart, dont be a victim of this crime. Consider what the cost of cheap could mean to your job, yourself, or those you care about!