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Blockchain could reduce deaths and illness resulting from food contamination

Some of the biggest companies in the food supply sector are working with IBM to find ways to use blockchain technology to improve food safety

Large enterprises in the food supply industry, including manufacturers, distributors and retailers, are working with IBM to apply blockchain technology to the global food supply chain in an attempt to improve food safety.

They hope the initiative will help to reduce the World Health Organisation statistic that one in 10 people fall ill and 400,000 die because of contaminated food.

Food industry giants including Nestlé, Unilever and Walmart are involved in the project, which could speed up identification of the point at which food is contaminated to prevent further illness, lost revenue and wasted product.

Blockchain can record transactions securely, ensuring trust between the organisations involved. This could help to identify problems earlier.

Using the technology, food growers, suppliers, processors, distributors, retailers, regulators and consumers can gain access to trusted information about the origin and state of food. Organisations can them use blockchain to trace any contamination and quickly remove the affected food stocks.

The collaboration will see organisations in the food sector identify areas where blockchain can be used. “Unlike any technology before it, blockchain is transforming the way like-minded organisations come together and is enabling a new level of trust based on a single view of the truth,” said Marie Wieck, general manager at IBM Blockchain. “Our work with organisations across the food ecosystem, as well as IBM’s new platform, will further unleash the vast potential of this exciting technology.”

Frank Yiannas, vice-president, food safety at Walmart, said: “Blockchain technology enables a new era of end-to-end transparency in the global food system – equivalent to shining a light on food ecosystem participants that will further promote responsible actions and behaviour. It also allows all participants to share information rapidly and with confidence across a strong, trusted network. This is critical to ensuring that the global food system remains safe for all.”

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