The Blockchain Food Safety Alliance

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There are several ways in which blockchain technology can be applied to supply chains, allowing various industries to trace their products from source to destination. One of the most prominent is the Blockchain Food Safety Alliance, a collaborative effort that brings audibility and transparency to the food supply chain.

History and Participants

The Blockchain Food Safety Alliance originated as a joint effort between IBM, Walmart, China’s Tsinghua University, and the Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com. In December 2017, these four entities created the Blockchain Food Safety Alliance, a standardized method of tracking food safety with the help of the blockchain.

The alliance has also spawned related organizations and projects. Most recently, in November 2018, the IBM Food Trust was launched, offering a commercially available platform and shifting the focus from China to America and Europe. In addition to handling food safety, the Food Trust also focuses on product freshness, waste reduction, and other aspects of the food supply chain. 

Function

The Blockchain Food Safety Alliance relies on IBM's Blockchain Platform, which serves as a distributed ledger and provides an immutable and auditable trail of data concerning food products. It allows information to be taken and retrieved at various points in the supply chain, such as production, handling, and retail.

This allows information to be shared easily between various entities participating in the food supply chain, who are able to determine whether they are using safe food products. It enables food safety problems to be traced and discovered, and, at the same time, it also guarantees data privacy for brand owners.

Applications

Initially, the Blockchain Food Safety Alliance was applied to China's food supply chain, naturally due to the fact that two of the alliance's members were based in China. However, China also has a need for food safety solutions: remote areas of the country often lack regulation, which has caused issues in the past such as tainted meat and baby formula scandals. The Blockchain Food Safety Alliance’s efforts have since been applied to pork supply chains in China, for example.

However, extensions of the technology have since been implemented worldwide. Walmart, for example, is now using IBM's Food Trust platform to combat an E. coli outbreak in the U.S. Meanwhile, Carrefour has joined IBM's Food Network to track food in Europe. The platform will likely continue to be influential in the future, and IBM regularly posts developments on its food safety blog.

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