Food fraud is rampant throughout US restaurant and supermarkets. Trust is declining in the food industry. Is there any way to go back to the roots and verify the origin of the meal we are having now? What if some adulteration occurred while the food traveled from a farm to our kitchens?
The World Health Organization projects that 1 in every 10 people become ill each year from contaminated food, with 420,000 dying as a result. Back in 2006 and 2015, during E.coli outbreak in the US led to the loss of thousands of human lives. Adding to the misery, the national economy got disturbed by revenue loss, stock tumbling, and a decline in sales. The recent fraud in meat producing factories located in Brazil is stomach-aching.
The concern is utmost important and urgent within the present global food ecosystem. The supply chain involves multiple actors from diverse geographic locations. Thus, it is critical to building a platform for multi-sector collaboration, transparent supply chain tracking and refilling trust in our food. All the roads lead to the application of Blockchain in food industry.
BLOCKCHAIN IN FOOD INDUSTRY
Just as in transportation, Blockchain technology encrypted car data and resulted in a reduction of data friction and data fraud, same can be implemented in the food industry too.
The blockchain operates on decentralized ledger which documents transactions and stores this information on a global neutral open platform. This shared characteristic of Blockchain allows all the members of a business network to participate at the same time. This aids them to better visualize and handle the value chain. There is no void for any third party to enter the data or authorize transact. In fact, all the actors have to abide by the same set of rules.
Shanker Ramamurthy, GM, Strategy & Market Development, Global Business Services, IBM details about the process. “When applied to the food supply chain, digital product information such as farm origination details, batch numbers, factory and processing data, expiration dates, storage temperatures and shipping detail are digitally connected to food items and the information is entered into the blockchain along every step of the process.”
Once a consensus is formed among the participants, the data becomes a permanent record and cannot be altered further. This unique feature of Blockchain brings transparency in supply chain information, irrespective of nature of business sector – banking, automobile or food industry. The food information remains consistent with the producer, retailer, and the end consumer. No surprise that The Economist dubbed the blockchain as “The Trust Machine”.
ADVANTAGES OF BLOCKCHAIN IN THE FOOD INDUSTRY
Our Foods are in Safe Hands
Blockchain has revolutionized the traceability factor in the trading zones. The technology empowers the entire chain to remain attentive towards any food disaster.
Notably, Blockchain in food industry saves time on reverse tracking of any product source, if found contaminated. Rather than recalling the entire batch of that particular food item, Blockchain helps to isolate the specific product and its source of origin. The system will also alert other members of the network who have sourced from the same producer.
Presently IBM Blockchain team and the retail giant Walmart are simultaneously working in this direction. For instance, earlier Walmart took days or even weeks to track back a stock of mangoes from store to farm. With the help of new technology, this task is finished in mere 2 seconds. The system has helped to fetch minute information of any food product within the tiniest time period. Similarly, Blockchain also provides accurate data on the shelf life of packaged food products.
What Was Sowed is What Written on the Label
The consumers trust in the food market is already shattered. The terms like “organic” or “100 percent natural” or “cholesterol free” do not mean anything to them. The people now are exposed to more information than earlier. They know that these claims are authenticated by third-party associations who can be bribed any moment.
Consumers need reassurance on what is printed on the food label. Here, the blockchain facilitates a service of ensuring the integrity of these claims. The actors of US food industry will need to register the existing certifications and facility audit reports on Blockchain to substantiate these claims. The process will enhance customer trust in the companies that guarantee consistent quality.
Empowering Producers and Distributors
Other than benefiting the end consumers, Blockchain in food industry owns equal potential for the top members of the supply chain. The producers and distributors can harvest real-time data and market prices from the network database.
Meanwhile, they can immediately identify if any participant attempts to hamper the product quality before it reaches the retailer. The companies can also apply artificial intelligence to analyze their market performance and improve upon to deliver the best.
“Blockchain technology will help the food industry share assets and information easily, cheaply, and safely,” tells Alessandro Voto, West Coast Regional Director at ConsenSys. “Food transportation companies will automate trade finance and exchange digital tokens to simplify payments, especially across borders.”
However, the current Blockchain technology can handle the limited scale of information. The evolution of Blockchain in food industry needs work in the direction of boosting trust in traceability, sharing awareness and creating firm hardware-software integration.