Consumers around the world are demanding to know where their food comes from and how it was produced, increasing the pressure on processors to invest in new technology to stay ahead of the game.

With customer expectation for quality and value increasing, supply chains are expanding, and this is making them less transparent and harder to control.

We all remember the scandal of 2013 when frozen beef products being sold in the UK and Ireland were found to contain traces of horse DNA. That same year it was revealed that a parmesan cheese being sold to Australian customers didn't actually contain parmesan, rather it was a cheaper cheese and even included wood pulp.

In 2015, $483m of smuggled meat was seized by Chinese authorities, some of it was found to be up to 40 years old.

Currently, the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture is working with Chinese authorities to investigate reports of non-compliance in relation to nine Australian pasteurized milk batches in 2016, which is a big deal given China is the second largest export market for Australian dairy producers.

Fraud is thought to cost the global food industry between $40 and $50bn a year so systems are being developed to beat the fraudsters.

In a world-first for the food sector, accounting firm Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) has developed an electronic etching procedure that creates an invisible, trackable barcode for beef based on edible, non-toxic silicon dioxide.

Before too long, it will be possible to point your smart-phone at a premium cut of Australian beef, and fire up an app to reveal the meat's entire history including where it was raised, what it ate and when and where it was processed.

The revolutionary beef-tagging technology is expected to be launched in the export market by the end of the year, and in Australia within the next 12 months.

The procedure starts in the abattoir, where sides of beef are sprayed with particles of silicon dioxide as fine as castor sugar.

This natural, edible fingerprint, similar to traceability signatures already used in the pharmaceutical industry, forms a crypto anchor that can be scanned using a hyper-spectrum gun. This shines a light onto the micro particles of silicon dioxide and refracts back a wavelength signature, or what PwC national agribusiness leader Craig Heraghty calls "a unique serial number on a piece of steak".

Mr Heraghty, who is working with researchers to enable scanning by smart-phone cameras, says the security device is "step one in a multi-step approach to beat the fraudsters" and will be followed by similar devices for wine and dairy products as part of a Food Trust Platform developed by PwC over the past thirty months.

In China, where the beef micro tag will be launched, it is estimated that just half the Australian-branded beef on offer actually comes from Australia.

Initially, the micro tag will be embedded in the beef's primary packaging only. While silicon dioxide is approved as a food additive by Australia's food safety agency - it's the "anti-caking" agent used in dry mixes such as powdered milk and spices - it's approval for application in a tracking and serialisation is pending.

Potentially, the tagging could be done at every stage of the process, enabling even individual steaks to be tagged.

Of course there are many other procedures and systems already in place to prevent food fraud. For instance, DNA testing has been used by livestock breeders to help prove the pedigree of their sheep or cattle. The Aberdeen Angus Cattle Society was one of the leaders in this field.

Aberdeen Angus beef has always attracted premium prices, so buyers of store cattle - half-grown animals that need to be grown out and fattened, or finished as we say - are prepared to bid a premium for them. Sadly, too many black cattle were being passed off as Aberdeen Angus by unscrupulous sellers, when they hadn't been sired by an Aberdeen Angus bull. So the Aberdeen Angus Cattle Society introduced DNA testing of store cattle and beef carcases.

Recently a study to look at the feasibility of introducing DNA traceability as an additional measure to guarantee the authenticity of Scotch Beef PGI (Protected Geographical Indication), was commissioned by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS), the red meat industry promotional body.

The study will consider how a DNA traceability system could be implemented, including when and where the samples could be taken.