To Trace Food Contamination With Blockchain, IBM Partners With Nestle, Unilever And Other Food Giants

In an effort to reduce food contamination by using blockchain, IBM has been joined by a group of global food giants including the likes of Nestle, Unilever and Walmart.

In order to trace the source of contaminated produce IBM would enable global food businesses to use its blockchain network, the corporation announced on Tuesday.

According to the World Health Organization, one in ten people succumb to illness every year due to contaminated food. After a contamination scare over eggs infected with the pesticide fipronil, a summit was called by the European Union’s food safety commissioner earlier this week.

By using its distributed ledger technology, which maintains a digital record of transactions rather than a physical one, the problem of consumer health suffering at the hands of toxic food could be solved, IBM said.

In a matter of seconds, tracing contaminated produce, and sourcing information about the origin, condition and movement of food would be possible for food suppliers by the technology.

“The whole opportunity that we share is to provide transparency across the ecosystem today,” Brigid McDermott, IBM’s vice president for blockchain business development, said.

Both a “brilliant solution” and a “growing ecosystem” would be provided by building a blockchain network, IBM’s blockchain specialist said.

“That’s what we’re trying to do,” she said. “We’re trying to use that to get that transparency across the whole system so that we can find the problem, so that we can make it easier for people to run safer systems, run safer food supply chains.”

In order to digitally track the movement of food, Walmart has previously worked with IBM. The process of tracking information using blockchain in less than 3 seconds was demonstrated by Frank Yiannas, vice president for food safety at Walmart at a meeting of shareholders in June.

“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 behaviors,” Yiannas said in a press statement on Tuesday.

“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.”

Instead of a physical ledger, decentralized log of data maintained on a network of computers is the essence of blockchain – or distributed ledger technology.

In order to serve as the public ledger for all bitcoin transactions, the original blockchain was created by bitcoin-founder Satoshi Nakamoto.

The technology can revolutionize industries ranging from healthcare to agriculture as it can provide a secure, transparent network of information, believe experts.

“We see other industries like energy, healthcare and marketing, looking at transformation that really could be happening,” IBM’s McDermott said.

“And I think it’s partially because the transformation you see happening with blockchain can come from different areas.”

Blockchain was likely to continue broadening out from financial services to other big sectors, said another blockchain expert from Hyperledger, the open source blockchain platform which IBM built its solution on.

“Because it can impact every sector out there, it’s no surprise that the sectors that are most interested are those that are extremely transactionally and actually fairly distributed,” Brian Behlendorf, Hyperledger’s executive director, said earlier this month.

“The financial markets, even if you divide that into core banking, into capital formation, private equity – all of these different domains have ledgers at the heart of what they do. And building a distributed ledger is a way to reconcile these ledgers.”

Behlendorf added: “But also health care, also supply chains; those are recurring themes. Any big sector, any big component in the U.S. GDP (gross domestic product), it’s likely that they’re talking about blockchain pilots.”

(Adapted from CNBC)

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