Blockchain Seen As Tool in Food Safety and Ethical Practices

The food industry is turning to the same technology used by virtual currencies to strengthen food safety and inventory management by tracking meats and crops from farm to table.

Working with IBM, retail giant Wal-Mart Stores is testing the technology system on mangoes in the United States and pork in China.Blockchain, the underlying technology behind virtual currency bitcoin, is a digital system that allows counter parties to transact using individual codes for goods.

The technology enables different parties in the supply chain to share details such as the date an animal was slaughtered or the weather conditions at harvest time.Data can be stored through a photograph on
a smartphone that is transmitted onto a dedicated platform.

The advantage of blockchain is that the ledger is immediately updated and all the parties have access to the latest information, said Bill Fearnley, an expert at market intelligence firm IDC.Supporters of blockchain are especially keen to address salmonella and other food safety problems that can cause health scares that weigh on corporate reputation and damage sales.


The other great virtue of blockchain is enhanced transparency by letting consumers look up key information on where food comes from, an asset amid growing concerns about genetically-modified crops and artificial ingredients.

It could quickly show you where, when and how a product, such as a T-shirt in Kmart or a bag of fair trade coffee beans, was produced and shipped to you, says futurist and digital consultant Chris Riddell.

If the technology permeates the produce and fresh food industry it means consumers would theoretically be able to scan a particular product with their smartphone and see the journey it took to get to the store shelf.That additional transparency also can help promote more desirable practices. British online start-up Provenance used blockchain technology to test tuna caught in Indonesia to help corroborate claims the fish were responsibly caught.

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