UCL Jill Dando Institute of Security and Crime Science


Scoping study on recent and future trends in counterfeit goods

17 January 2019

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). 

Lead investigator(s):

Prof Robert Speller 

Richard Lacey (Home Office CAST) 

Research Assistant(s):

Chiaki Crews  

Robert Moss 

For information about this project contact: Prof Robert Speller r.speller@ucl.ac.uk