Cocoa bean fingerprint could help trace chocolate bars to their farm of origin, new study finds

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A new study from the University of Surrey has found that biotechnology may be the missing ingredient to help cocoa farmers get a better price for their beans.

Chocolate is a £ 61 billion a year global industry that has seen the volatile price of cocoa lead to an increase in traders looking to buy cheaper beans in deforested areas, with poorer quality plants and human rights violations. This has affected the prices and practices of legitimate farmers, reducing the gains in sustainability.

In the results, published in the journal Supply chain management, the multi-university research team reveals that biomarkers can create ‘meta-barcodes’, which are like biochemical fingerprints, an immutable barcode extracted from the DNA of the plant, providing a unique identifier of a plant which is also observed in its beans and subsequent chocolate products. The cocoa bean biomarker used in making chocolate could accurately identify the farm, production facility or cooperative from which a cocoa product originated.

To make this new process a reality, a controlled dataset of biomarkers from the recorded locations is required for the audit. The study goes on to explain that this missing piece – a biomarker database that identifies the origin of cocoa products, can be built by companies at an estimated cost of £ 5 per sample – around the cost of A box of chocolates.

Glenn Parry, Professor of Digital Transformation at the University of Surrey, said: “The chocolate market has become turbulent and we have evidence of over 100 years of supply chain slavery. Governments and chocolate producers face an ethical challenge and a drastic need to improve a business plagued by environmental destruction and human misery.

“We have an effective approach for them to progress. We demonstrate that biomarkers can provide supply chain visibility from the individual farm to the retail chocolate bar. This solution could now be within reach, where the journey of chocolate in your refrigerator could be traced back to the cocoa trees where it began.


DNA testing on cocoa to end slavery and child labor in the chocolate industry


More information:
Pedro Lafargue et al, Broken chocolate: biomarkers as a method of visibility of the cocoa supply chain, Supply chain management: an international journal (2021). DOI: 10.1108 / SCM-11-2020-0583

Provided by the University of Surrey

Quote: A cocoa bean fingerprint could help trace chocolate bars back to their farm of origin, according to a new study (2021, September 1) retrieved September 1, 2021 from https: // phys. org / news / 2021-09-cocoa- bean-fingerprints-chocolate-bars.html

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