Blockchain & Food Safety

As the three recent listeria outbreaks in the EU have shown, a simple food safety mistake in the food supply chain or with food preparation can result in millions of dollars in food recalls, hundreds of people sick and, sadly, deaths.

In the US, food safety is a major concern too. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are 48 million cases of foodborne illness annually—that’s 1 in 6 Americans getting sick from foodborne illness each year. And each year these illnesses result in an estimated 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths.

Possible solution? Blockchain can make food more transparent and safer for the consumer. Both the Acting FDA Commissioner, Ned Sharpless, and his predecessor, Scott Gottlieb, have expressed hope and interest in utilizing blockchain for food safety. Ned Sharpless has asked: “In food safety, how can we use modern technology like blockchain and artificial intelligence in a way that is maximally protective to the consumer?”
Scott Gottlieb said food suppliers should experiment with blockchain because it could link outbreaks “to a specific grower, specific farm and a specific distributor.”

Two food safety blockchain applications include Transparent Path and IBM Food Trust—both demonstrate how blockchain can make our food supply chain safer and more transparent for the consumer.

Transparent Path is a platform that utilizes printed sensor technology, third-party auditors and decentralized blockchain apps to show the path of food from farm to distributor in real-time. Transparent Path’s goal is to ensure food safety and demonstrate food’s origins to consumers in a transparent manner. Transparent Path’s customers include both restaurants and food and beverage brands.

IMB Food Trust was formed when Walmart teamed up with IBM to trace Walmart’s lettuce from farm to table—forming a clear path of food safety custody. IMB Food Trust used real-time certifications, test data and temperature data to show that food safety standards were met. Walmart declared the IMB Food Trust lettuce project a success and now has plans to experiment with other foods soon.