The Kroger Co. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. are two of a group of food retailers and CPGs across the global supply chain that are partnering with IBM in a major blockchain collaboration to further strengthen consumer confidence in the global food system.
Along with Dole, Driscoll’s, Golden State Foods, McCormick and Co., McLane Co., Nestlé, Tyson Foods, and Unilever, the two retailers will work with the Armonk, N.Y.-based technology company to identify new areas where the global supply chain can benefit from blockchain technology, which can be used to improve traceability by providing trusted information on the origin and state of food.
Annually, one in 10 people fall ill – and 400,000 die – due to contaminated food. Many of the critical issues impacting food safety – such as cross-contamination, the spread of foodborne illness, unnecessary waste and the economic burden of recalls – are magnified by lack of access to information and traceability. It can take weeks to identify the precise point of contamination, causing further illness, lost revenue and wasted product.
“Blockchain is a digital ledger that allows different segments of the food system to capture information about the product, what they’ve done to it, where that product has been,” said Frank Yiannas, VP, food safety at Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart. “If we’re linking that data with other data points, the Internet of Things, all that information will yield to insights that will allow us to have a safer, more affordable and sustainable food system. But we don’t believe traceability is the goal – we believe that transparency is the ultimate goal.”
Blockchain establishes a trusted environment for all transactions, enabling all participants in the global food supply chain – growers, suppliers, processors, distributors, retailers, regulators and consumers – to gain permissioned access to known and trusted information regarding the origin and state of food for their transactions. This can enable food providers and other members of the ecosystem to use a blockchain network to trace contaminated product to its source in a short amount of time to ensure safe removal from store shelves and stem the spread of illnesses.