lbertsons Co., the second largest grocery retailer by sales volume, has become the latest client of IBMs Food Trust blockchain platform. Food Trust’s goal is to improve the companies’ ability to identify issues involved with food recalls, such as tracing outbreak more quickly to limit customer risk.
The platform shortens the time frame of tracking produce from farm to store from weeks to seconds. Albertson, which operates over 2,300 stores across the United States confirmed the news in a press release on April 11, 2019.
Initially the platform will be used by Albertson to track the supply chain for romaine lettuce but aims to branch out into other products.
“Multiple high-profile consumer advisories from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration demonstrate the need to find more efficient ways of tracing products and identifying likely sources of contamination in a timely manner.”
Said Jerry Noland, Albertsons Co. VP of Food Safety & Quality Assurance.
Romaine lettuce was the subject of two e. coli outbreaks in the United States in 2018 and the early part of January 2019, that effected hundreds of people in the U.S and Canada; killing five.
That same year Walmart’s vice president of food safety, Frank Yiannas, noted that even if it took years for the food industry to completely adopt blockchain tech in the future, “outbreaks don’t have to be this big and this long.”
Since IBM launched Food Trust in October of 2018, 80 clients have been incorporated and over five million food products now use blockchain technology as part of their delivery process.
Despite Albertsons Co. joining other big names such as, Walmart and Carrefour, a blockchain network is far stronger with it includes a plethora of members that can form a continuous transacting ecosystem.
“Blockchain technology has the potential to be transformational for us,”
Chief Information Officer for Albertsons Co., Anuj Dhanda, commented in the press release.
“Food safety is a very significant step. In addition, the provenance of the product enabled by blockchain – the ability to track every move from the farm to the customer’s basket – can be very empowering for our customers.”
A blockchain network is a system of record that can be used to trace and authenticate objects as they move through the supply chain.
Digital records of every transaction can be created for food products
This includes things such as, the packaging date, the temperature the item was shipped at, and its arrival at the grocery store.
IBM noted that such transparency can address food quality issues ranging from food safety, to freshness, as well as verification of certification like organic or fair trade, waste reduction and sustainability.
European grocery chain, Carrefour, another member of the IBM Food Trust Network uses this technology to share trace-ability data with their consumers.
“As a consumer, you can go into a Carrefour store and scan a QR code with your phone. Using the Carrefour app, this will deliver traceability information from IBM’s Food Trust directly to the consumer,”
Suzanne Livingston, IBM’s Food Trust Offering Director. She continued:
”The majority of food retailers on board the Food Trust network want to eventually enable this. Part of the network is about improvement in a retailer’s supply chain, so they have better visibility, but retailers also want to increase consumer trust in food and loyalty in brands."
"Now, we are getting that information into the hands of consumers.”
The integration of blockchain and food safety is a welcome in a world saturated with consumer food products with little accountability to the supplier.
Barring the continuation of the November 2018 outbreak into January 2019, no reports of outbreaks have occurred for 2019.
With brands and companies such as, Walmart, Nestlé, Dole, Unilever, The Kroger Co. and more on-board commitment to blockchain has been generally swift and well received since the pilot of Food Trust in 2016 in China.
IBM’s GM of Food Trust, Raj Rao, added:
“Establishing IBM Food Trust and opening it to the food ecosystem last year was a major milestone in making blockchain real for business.”
“By bringing more members into the network and enabling them to share greater cross-sections of data in a secured environment, we believe our vision of a transformed food ecosystem using blockchain is closer than ever.”
Blockchain has many benefits to the companies involved to and in areas beyond food safety, according to Blockgeeks some of the benefits include:
- It is not owned by a single entity, hence it is decentralized.
- The data is cryptographically stored inside
- It is immutable, so no one can tamper with the data that is inside the blockchain
- The blockchain is transparent so one [anyone] can track the data if they want to.
It is yet to be seen how other retail sectors will incorporate blockchain technologies into their supply chain operations, but a few such as, clothing and furniture might benefit greatly.