IBM leads consortium promoting blockchain in food supply chains

IBM leads consortium promoting blockchain in food supply chains

IBM leads consortium promoting blockchain in food supply chains
(Photo: IBM)

Technology company IBM is leading a consortium to explore how blockchain can benefit the global food supply chain.

IBM will be joined by food companies Dole, Driscoll’s, Golden State Foods, Kroger, McCormick and Company, McLane Company, Nestlé, Tyson Foods, Unilever and Walmart, all of whom are looking to improve the safety of food via blockchain.

Tackling food safety at source

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one in 10 people fall ill and 400,000 people die every year from eating contaminated food. This is, in part, due to difficulties in tracing the exact point in the supply chain at which a food became contaminated.

For example, in May of this year it took the Center for Disease Control and Prevention more than two months to identify the farm source of contamination in a recent incident of salmonella in several brands of papayas. As many as 173 people were found with symptoms across 21 states in America, and one person died.

The consortium believes that blockchain is well-suited to address these problems with traceability because it would establish a trusted environment for all transactions, whereby each participant in the global food supply chain could view the origin and state of food ingredients. Thus, contaminated foods can be spotted and prevented from traveling further, much more quickly than at present.

Read more: Food and grocery supply chains face IoT revolution, research suggests

Blockchain trials prove successful

Using IBM’s own blockchain platform during trials in China and the US, IBM and retailer Walmart claim to have proved 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.

“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,” said Frank Yiannas, vice president of food safety at Walmart.

“It also allows all participants to share information rapidly and with confidence across a strong trusted network. This is critical to ensuring that the global food system remains safe for all.”

Full details of IBM’s partnership will Walmart can be viewed here:

Now, the consortium hopes to find new areas where blockchain can benefit the food supply chain, all of which will feed into new technology developments at IBM.

Read more: Connected supply chains still a way off for consumer goods, says Evrythng