Dawes Centre for Future Crime at UCL


Scoping study on recent and future trends in counterfeit goods

19 May 2021

Research summary

Counterfeit products are big business with an estimated value of half a trillion dollars per year, and have serious implications including poor treatment of life threatening diseases, a lack pest control on food crops, and brand damage, to mention just a few. Counterfeiters have becoming increasingly proficient at producing authentic-looking products and/or packaging, honing their methods to the point where their products pass visual inspection – the first line of defence. Thus, there is a growing requirement for fast analytical methods to test the chemical composition of the contents of such products. This project aims to carry out a scoping study to look at current and future trends in counterfeiting and the technology that might be used to identify counterfeit goods.

Specifically, we are interested in products composed of chemical mixtures where the same or similar analytical techniques for authentication may be applicable. These include pharmaceutical medicines (the overall economic impact of fake drugs is estimated to be €10.2bn for the European pharmaceutical industry); food and drink (from horse meat scandals to diluted ‘wild’ honey -  in an INTERPOL coordinated operation involving 57 countries, more than 10,000 tonnes and one million litres of hazardous fake food and drink were seized); agrochemicals (there are indications of increased trade in illegal and counterfeit plant protection products), and toiletries (online purchases of toiletries are increasing and it is currently estimated that ~30% are fake). 

Policy briefing

A policy briefing document has been prepared for this project, entitled “Challendges of preventing counterfeit goods”. The briefing is available by clicking here.

Lead Investigator(s)
Research Assistant(s):
  • Chiaki Crews, Open University, formerly UCL Department of Medical Physics & Biomedical Engineering
  • Robert Moss, UCL Mecial Physics
For information about this project contact

Prof Robert Speller (r.speller@ucl.ac.uk)