The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) has completed a blockchain pilot project in a slaughterhouse – the first time that blockchain has been used directly as a regulatory tool in food production.
Few details have been provided by the FSA on exactly how the technology was deployed.
The government agency is tasked with protecting public health with regards to food. Part of that process is ensuring its provenance, and the compliance of its producers with food hygiene and quality standards, so it is likely that blockchain was used to track meat products from the slaughterhouse and on through the supply chain.
Blockchain relies on a distributed ledger and can also support self-executing smart contracts, allowing users to follow individual products through smart supply chains and guarantee their provenance.
Automating supply chain transparency
Since the horse meat scandal of 2013 – in which many ‘beef’ products were found to contain undeclared or mislabelled horse meat – European consumers and retailers have demanded much greater transparency and authentication from producers.
Blockchain platforms could help to automate that transparency all the way from individual animals to supermarket shelves, while also giving producers a way to trace compromised batches.
According to the FSA, both the agency and the slaughterhouse had permission to access data, which provided “the benefit of improved transparency across the food supply chain.”
The FSA has confirmed that another pilot using the technology is planned for later this month, which is thought to involve tracking other farm produce from field to retail outlet.
The expectation is that these pilots will eventually be scaled up to include other farms and slaughterhouses, allowing all parties to “get the full benefit of the new way data is managed and accessed as ‘permissioned’ data”.
Sian Thomas, the FSA’s head of information management, said the pilot promised to ease the compliance burdens that are placed on food producers.
“This is a really exciting development. We thought that blockchain technology might add real value to a part of the food industry, such as a slaughterhouse, whose work requires a lot of inspection and collation of results,” she said.
“Our approach has been to develop data standards with industry that will make theory reality, and so I’m delighted that we’ve been able to show that blockchain does indeed work in this part of the food industry.
“I think there are great opportunities now for industry and government to work together to expand and develop this approach.”
Internet of Business says
Vegetarians and vegans will blanche at the pilot project, but it’s clear that blockchain has enormous potential in tracking the provenance and supply chains for every type of food.
However, for that potential to be realised in farming, food production, and tracking, adoption would need to be industry wide, rather than in a handful of local programmes. “Its permanent use would need to be industry-led because the current data model is limited to the collection and communication of inspection results,” acknowledged the FSA.