Block Chain Technology for the Food Safety Industry

21 Mar 2019
Louis Corso
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First things First

When you think of Block what is the first thing that comes to mind? Usually, it is some form of crypto-currency. However, you may not realize that Block Chain Technology can have a life outside of crypto-currency trading. In fact, Block chain Technology has promised to solve issues ranging from crypto-currency trading to tracking shipments of food from the ground to the table ,from origin to the shelf of your supermarket. The application of Block Chain Technology is particular good when it comes to logistics and it has the potential to disrupt the supply chain where many of the process today are done with pen, pencil and paper.

A Use Case

Let’s look at a use case. Your supermarket has received a shipment of produce. Not only has your supermarket received the produce, but all supermarkets in the area, region and in many parts of the country have received the same product.  Several customers have complained that they got sick from the product they purchased from your store. What do you do first? Track the product, get all of the details and prepare to find out what happened before you take your next step. However, you want to be cautious, so do you pull the product off of the shelf? What if it was not that product? How can you verify it was that particular product?

When will it be implemented?

How many companies can put the technology in place and how many producers will utilize Block Chain Technology? Walmart has already started to push for the implementation of block chain technology for certain products. They have started a program with IBM specifically to add Block Chain Technology to leafy greens that will land on their store shelves as well as in their Sam’s Club stores. Producers must upload their data into the block chain by September 2019 to be part of the distribution channel. If not, it is very simple, you will not do business with Walmart1.  Afterwards, they will expand their program to 100 more companies. Will Block Chain technology be a distinguishing factor for customers the same way that organic or sugar free or fat free has been or will it be even more of a disrupter? Or, will it be a distinguishing factor for supermarkets when deciding where they will source their products, perhaps both. Time will tell if it will make difference to a customer, but more and more businesses see transparency as key to grow their customer base and retain existing customers.

What would you choose?

If you had a choice to eat a meal where you knew where, when and how all of the ingredients were sourced vs. just some of the ingredients vs. none of the ingredients and there was slight price difference, which meal would you choose to eat? Leafy greens, all produce for the that matter, fish, poultry and beef, all of which can be traced from source to table. There is not a product on a store shelf that cannot or should not be traced back to origin and all stops in between. Again, if given the choice to choose between three meals which would you choose? My guess it will be the meal that has full traceability.

The Benefits

Currently, it can take a supermarket several people, 7 days or more to track and get all of the details around a product like a leafy green. Through the use of Block Chain technology it can take one person several seconds 1. That is a huge time savings and time is money, so the ROI can be easily calculated. Also, knowing you can track a problem back to origin means you can take care of the issue quicker. You can help the customer with valuable information so they can seek the right sort of treatment. Take into account the recent problem with e-coli tainted Romain lettuce that had affected 16 states and parts of Canada in October 2018. Since October 2018 up to December 2018, 62 people have reported illnesses, 25 of which were hospitalized and 2 of which developed further complications. As of January 9, 2019 no other cases have been reported and the outbreak appears to be over8. Getting information regarding the details of the product can mean you can get to the heart of the matter faster and that is intelligent business.

Conclusion

There is a tremendous amount of information regarding block chain technology and its use in the food safety industry? My guess is that it is only a matter of time before full implementation is a reality and you and I will be making decisions based on traceability. How long it will take will depend on how much supermarkets and restaurants value their customers and customers push for full transparency.

References

  1. https://cointelegraph.com/news/walmart-requires-certain-produce-suppliers-to-deploy-blockchain-technology
  2. https://www.forbes.com/sites/jennysplitter/2018/09/30/what-can-blockchain-really-do-for-the-food-industry/#62a0ce29488e
  3. https://medium.com/insolar/how-blockchain-technology-will-transform-grocery-retail-7eaaf5fa405a
  4. https://www.coindesk.com/ibm-food-supply-chain-blockchain-carrefour-live-production
  5. https://www.forbes.com/sites/samantharadocchia/2018/04/26/3-innovative-ways-blockchain-will-build-trust-in-the-food-industry/#1a28bbaf2afc
  6. https://www.ibm.com/blogs/blockchain/category/blockchain-in-food-safety/
  7. https://cointelegraph.com/news/major-swiss-stock-exchange-six-to-launch-new-blockchain-powered-digital-exchange
  8. https://www.cdc.gov/ecoli/2018/o157h7-11-18/index.html

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