Chain, Chain, Chain, Chain of Food: How Blockchain Technology Could Make Our Food Safer

3 min read

When people think of blockchain technology, in many cases, exchanging cryptocurrency is often the first thing that comes to mind.

However, blockchains can be used for far more than simply trading bitcoins. In fact, there are many companies that are looking at this relatively new technology as a way to improve efficiency and transparency.

Retail giant Walmart, for example, is experimenting with a way to use this distributed database to make sure that tainted food products stay out of the hands of the general public.

Tracing food products with blockchains

Walmart made headlines recently when they announced that they were teaming with multi-national technology company IBM, in order to incorporate the use of blockchains to trace food products. The retailer acknowledged that blockchain technology had reduced the time it takes to track food from days to minutes, or, in some cases, even faster. For example, during the test trials back in June, blockchains reduced the time it took to track mangoes from approximately 7 days to 2.2 seconds.

This might sound great if you are Walmart, but one might reasonably ask, how does this help make our food safer? Simply put, faster tracking time allows for faster recalls in the event produce, or any other type of food product is found to be contaminated. The quicker the food in question is located, the sooner it can be removed from shelves.

Furthermore, implementing the use of blockchains could even allow companies, such as Walmart, to find the source of the contamination and potentially address the problem at its core.

Lots of companies for safer food supply

Do you know where your groceries come from & if they are safe to eat?

Brigid McDermott, IBM’s vice president of blockchain business development, summed it up nicely in recent CNBC article, “We’re trying to use that (blockchain tech) to get that transparency across the whole system so that we can find the problem, so that we can make it easier for people to run safer systems, run safer food supply chains.”

However, Walmart isn’t the only company that has decided to run blockchain tests with IBM. In fact, some of the biggest companies in the food industry, such as Tyson and Nestle, have also decided to take a look at the possibility of incorporating the distributive database into their food supply chain process.

Moreover, Dole Food Company, Berkshire Hathway’s McLane Co, McCormick & Company, Golden State Foods, Kroger, and Driscoll’s are also interested in running their own trials, as well as sharing data with each other.

Howard Popoola, Kroger’s head of food safety, recently told Reuters, “The key right now is to involve suppliers and retailers and see how well we can share data to oil the IBM blockchain machine. This is an opportunity for us to speak with one voice and say to the world that food safety is not going to be a competitive issue.”

According to the World Health Organization, roughly a tenth of the world’s population succumb to illness annually from eating contaminated food.

Hopefully, with a little help from blockchain technology, that number will be significantly reduced in the years to come.