On August 22, a group of leading companies across the global food supply chain announced a major blockchain collaboration with IBM intended to further strengthen consumer confidence in the global food system.
In addition to Golden State Foods, the consortium also includes Dole, Driscoll’s, Kroger, McCormick and Company, McLane Company, Nestlé, Tyson Foods, Unilever and Walmart, who will work with IBM to identify new areas where the global supply chain can benefit from blockchain.
Every year, one-in-ten 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 food-borne 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. For example, it took more than two months to identify the farm source of contamination in a recent incidence of salmonella in papayas.**
Blockchain is ideally suited to help address these challenges because it establishes a trusted environment for all transactions. In the case of the global food supply chain, all participants – growers, suppliers, processors, distributors, retailers, regulators and consumers – can 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.
“IBM has deep experience and a commitment to business processing and security needs, which are exactly the skill sets needed to bring blockchain to full maturity for food safety and all associated transactions,” said Guilda Javaheri, GSF’s Chief Technology Officer. “As a customer and partner with IBM for more than forty years, Golden State Foods is pleased to collaborate with IBM and this group of trusted food companies.”
Dole, Driscoll’s, Golden State Foods, Kroger, McCormick and Company, McLane Company, Nestlé, Tyson Foods, Unilever, Walmart and others are now coming together with IBM to further champion blockchain as an enabling technology for the food sector. Together they will help identify and prioritize new areas where blockchain can benefit food ecosystems and inform new IBM solutions. This work will draw on multiple IBM pilots and production networks in related areas that successfully demonstrate ways in which blockchain can positively impact global food traceability.
*Source: World Health Organization http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2015/foodborne-disease-estimates/en/
**Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention https://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/kiambu-07-17/index.html