Cross-contamination between cell lines is a longstanding and frequent cause of scientific misrepresentation. Estimates from national testing services indicate that up to 36% of cell lines are of a different origin or species to that claimed. To test a standard method of cell line authentication, 253 human cell lines from banks and research institutes worldwide were analyzed by short tandem repeat profiling. The short tandem repeat profile is a simple numerical code that is reproducible between laboratories, is inexpensive, and can provide an international reference standard for every cell line. If DNA profiling of cell lines is accepted and demanded internationally, scientific misrepresentation because of cross-contamination can be largely eliminated.