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Food Standards Agency pilots blockchain in slaughterhouse

Distributed ledger technology trialled in cattle slaughterhouse to improve transparency across the food supply chain

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has piloted the use of blockchain technology in a cattle slaughterhouse to ensure compliance with regulations.  

Distributed ledgers such as blockchain are databases that securely record assets shared across a network. As part of the pilot, the FSA and the slaughterhouse were given access to the data, ensuring full transparency across the food supply chain.

Sian Thomas, the FSA’s head of information management, said using blockchain in the slaughterhouse was a “really exciting development”.

“We thought blockchain technology might add real value to a part of the food industry, such as a slaughterhouse, whose work requires a lot of inspection and collation of results,” said Thomas.

“Our approach has been to develop data standards with industry that will make theory reality and I am delighted that we’ve been able to show that blockchain does indeed work in this part of the food industry.” 

Following the slaughterhouse pilot, the FSA will launch another trial later this month, giving permission to farmers to access information about the animals from their farms. The agency aims to grow the use of blockchain further by replicating this across other meat plants, so “all those across the chain get the full benefit” of the new technology, it said. 

The FSA added that if blockchain is to be used permanently in the food industry, it must be industry-driven, because the data model used in the pilots is limited to collecting and communicating inspection results. 

“I think there are great opportunities now for industry and government to work together to expand and develop this approach,” said Thomas. 

In 2016, government chief scientist Mark Walport called on Whitehall to look at how distributed ledger technology could improve public services and boost productivity. Since then, the use of blockchain has grown across government, but mainly through pilots. 

Last year, HM Revenue and Customs piloted the use of blockchain at the UK border, and the Department for Work and Pensions has previously trialled the technology to enable benefits claimants to use a mobile app to track their welfare payments.

In November 2017, think-tank Reform suggested that the government should use blockchain technology for identity assurance services across the public sector. 

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