The consortium of retailers and food companies will be looking to identify areas where blockchain can benefit the global food supply chain. For example, blockchain technology could help improve food traceability by providing trusted information on the origin and state of food.
According to the World Health Organization, contaminated food accounts for about 400,000 deaths each year, and about one in 10 people falling ill. Lack of access to information and traceability can result in weeks or months of delays in identifying such issues as contamination and food-borne illness. By establishing a trusted environment for all transactions, blockchain is seen as being ideally suited to help address these issues.
In this case, all participants in the global food supply chain – growers, suppliers, processors, distributors, retailers, regulators, and consumers – can gain permissioned access to known and trusted information regarding the origin and state of food for their transactions. This could enable food providers and other members of the ecosystem to trace contaminated product to its source in a short amount of time to ensure safe removal from store shelves.
“Unlike any technology before it, blockchain is transforming the way like-minded organizations come together and enabling a new level of trust based on a single view of the truth,” says Marie Wieck, general manager, IBM Blockchain. “Our work with organizations across the food ecosystem, as well as IBM’s new platform, will further unleash the vast potential of this exciting technology, making it faster for organizations of all sizes and in all industries to move from concept to production to improve the way business gets done.”
Recently, in parallel trials in China and the U.S., IBM and Walmart demonstrated that blockchain can be used to track a product from the farm through every stage of the supply chain, right to the retail shelf, in seconds instead of days or weeks.
“Walmart looks forward to expanding on our initial work by collaborating with others to accelerate exploration on how this technology can be used as a more effective food traceability and food safety tool,” says Frank Yiannas, vice president, food safety, Walmart. “Blockchain technology enables a new era of end-to-end transparency in the global food system – equivalent to shining a light on food ecosystem participants that will further promote responsible actions and behaviors.”
“It also allows all participants to share information rapidly and with confidence across a strong trusted network,” he says. “This is critical to ensuring that the global food system remains safe for all.”
In addition to Walmart, the new blockchain consortium includes Dole, Driscoll’s, Golden State Foods, Kroger, McCormick and Company, McLane Company, Nestlé, Tyson Foods, and Unilever. In conjunction with the announcement, IBM has introduced a fully integrated, enterprise-ready IBM Blockchain platform to accelerate adoption of blockchain, as well as new academic and developer initiatives to advance blockchain skills.
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