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PLoS One. 2019 Jul 25;14(7):e0219917. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0219917. eCollection 2019.

Fraud and misrepresentation in retail forest products exceeds U.S. forensic wood science capacity.

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Center for Wood Anatomy Research, Forest Products Laboratory, Madison, WI, United States of America.
Department of Botany, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI, United States of America.
Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, United States of America.
Ciências Biológicas (Botânica), Universidade Estadual Paulista-Botucatu, São Paulo, Brasil.
Simeone Consulting, LLC, Anchorage, AK, United States of America.
World Wildlife Fund, Washington, DC, United States of America.
World Resources Institute, Washington, DC, United States of America.


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, is unknown. We used forensic wood anatomy to test 183 specimens from 73 consumer products acquired from major U.S. retailers, surveyed U.S. experts regarding their forensic wood anatomy capacity, and conducted a proficiency-testing program of those experts. 62% of tested products (45 of 73) had one or more type of fraudulent or misrepresented claim. Survey respondents reported a total capacity of 830 wood specimens per year, and participants' identification accuracy ranged from 6% to 92%. Given the extent of fraud and misrepresentation, U.S. wood forensic wood anatomy capacity does not scale with the need for such expertise. We call for increased training in forensic wood anatomy and its broader application in forest products supply chains to eliminate fraud and combat illegal logging.

Conflict of interest statement

We have the following interests: Funders (WWF) contracted one of the authors, JS, who is the sole employee at Simeone Consulting, LLC, to help execute the study. There are no patents, products in development or marketed products to declare. This does not alter our adherence to all the PLOS ONE policies on sharing data and materials.

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