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Fraud in U.S. Retail Forest Products and Forensic Capacity

Photo of A selection of retail forest products sampled for the study and microscope slides made for their identification.A selection of retail forest products sampled for the study and microscope slides made for their identification.Snapshot : Fraud and misrepresentation in U.S. retail forest products greatly exceeds the forensic capacity to combat it.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Wiedenhoeft, Alex C., Ph.D. 
Research Station : Forest Products Laboratory (FPL)
Year : 2019
Highlight ID : 1601

Summary

Fraud and misrepresentation in forest products supply chains is often associated with illegal logging, but the extent of fraud in the U.S. forest products market, and the availability of forensic expertise to detect it, was unknown. Using forensic wood anatomy to test products, USDA Forest Service researchers found that 62 percent of tested products had one or more type of fraudulent or misrepresented claims. After surveying U.S. experts and conducting a proficiency test, they found that annual capacity is only 830 wood specimens per year, and participants’ identification accuracy ranged from 6 percent to 92 percent.  With fraud and misrepresentation so prevalent in the U.S. market, this level of forensic wood anatomy capacity is inadequate. There is a consequent need for increased training in forensic wood anatomy and its broader application in forest products supply chains to eliminate fraud and combat illegal logging.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • None.
  • Simeone Consulting, LLC
  • World Resources Institute
  • World Wildlife Fund