You’ve probably heard a lot about Blockchain over the last few years. It’s what drives cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, but what does Blockchain do?
Put simply; a Blockchain is like a shared record of transactions that ensures the security, decentralization, and transparency of information.
Because of these benefits, Blockchain Technology promises to revolutionize most industries ranging from real-estate to data sharing to what this article is about, food safety.
Perhaps the most effective way Blockchain will benefit food safety comes from its rapid ability to track the source of food-borne illnesses. Because the Blockchain would log where food has been from farm to shelf, and in every intermediary step, experts can pinpoint where food-borne diseases originated from and take at-risk items off the shelves.
The largest supermarket chain in the world, Walmart is taking full advantage of this. After the E. Coli outbreak on Romaine Lettuce in 2018, Walmart now uses Blockchain tech to track all of its lettuce throughout the entire supply chain. Rather than taking weeks to track down the source of an outbreak, it could be located in mere seconds. This same concept can and will be applied to far more than just lettuce to ensure the quickest response to food illness outbreaks possible.
Similarly, to the ease of finding the source of illness outbreaks, Blockchain would help the consumer track the age of food purchased. An emerging company, Ripe.io, is attempting to do just that with its revolutionary application of Blockchain to the food industry. Ripe.io is taking over the realm of spoilage management by allowing the consumer to see where their food has been in every step of the supply chain.
For example, if an individual was buying tomatoes or any other food, they could see exactly when and where the vegetables were farmed, shipped, and distributed. This wealth of information allows the consumer to make the most educated choice on what goods to buy and eliminate any risk of purchasing spoiled food.
An equally important but lesser-known use of Blockchain is to protect individuals from allergen exposure. Over 32 million Americans have food allergies, almost 10% of the total population. With this vast population in need of keeping their food allergen-free, there is a growing demand for transparency in the food supply chain.
The transparency on where products have been increases the safety of food for individuals with food allergies. When buying a cookie at a coffee shop, for example, a person with a nut allergy could see if that cookie was made in a facility that contains nuts or has ever come into contact with nuts. With the click of a button or the scan of a barcode, people can eat comfortably knowing that they are not consuming allergens.
Carrefour, a French supermarket chain, has taken advantage of the consumer protection Blockchain offers by introducing Carrefour Quality Line. This Blockchain network allows customers of Carrefour to see precise information on the food being sold, such as when/where the food was harvested, details on how it was shipped, to even the temperatures it faced in transport. Carrefour’s model on how to use Blockchain in informing its customers is sure to be an example to others going forward.
Similarly, to how Blockchain transparency allows individuals with allergies to protect themselves from exposure, it also allows people to see the source of their food to ensure what they are eating meets their dietary restrictions, such as being organic or kosher.
According to a Pew study, American’s desire for organic food has ‘grown steadily’ over the past several decades. In the same way that individuals can ensure that their food does not contain allergens, they can also use Blockchain technology to guarantee that their food is meeting their preferred diet guidelines.
Was this beef raised humanely? Are these beans organic? Is this bread truly kosher?
All of these questions many ask themselves daily can be answered instantly due to the transparency Blockchain will provide in the food industry.
Nestle, for example, is experimenting with Blockchain to inform customers if their Palm Oil is sustainably sourced so that those who refuse to consume unsustainable Palm Oil will feel assured. We are likely to see this principle expand and see many companies take advantage of Blockchain to better inform its customers on the food they are getting.
Not only can Blockchain authenticate that the food individuals are eating is organic or kosher, but also that the items people purchase are of the quality and brand advertised.
“As much as 20% of the fine wine purchased in the world is counterfeit.“
Blockchain almost completely removes the possibility of counterfeiting and thus the risk of buying fake goods. Louis Vuitton is already using Blockchain to protect its brand in the clothing space. Soon luxury food brands, such as Ace of Spades wine, will be doing the same. This concept is not only limited to luxury brands but can also be applied to ensuring the quality of the foods we buy is what is advertised. For example, this could ensure that the meat and eggs we buy are actually ‘Grade A’.
Blockchain will not only allow us to have unprecedented transparency and safety when buying food in grocery stores but also in restaurants, where we receive perhaps the least transparency on what we are eating.
At a restaurant, you eat what you are served with no real knowledge of where the food comes from. The only assurance we have comes from the trust in the establishment we are going to.
Blockchain would eliminate the need to wonder if the fish is actually freshly caught or if the beef is locally sourced. In the same ways, consumers can gain access to a wealth of information on the food they buy in a story. They can also learn about the food they are served in a restaurant. This would be a massive step in holding restaurants accountable and in upholding the safety of the food we consume.
Blockchain promises to take huge leaps in improving the safety of something we all come into contact with every day – our food.
Blockchain will improve the transparency of where our food comes from and the authenticity of what our food is. Whether you have a food allergy, a specific diet, or simply want food-borne illnesses to be a thing of the past, you can rest assured knowing Blockchain technology is and will continue to revolutionize safety in the food industry through its unprecedented transparency to the consumer.