Blockchain is a hot topic today, and the food industry is no exception. But this technology and its implications are not always easy to understand. What exactly is blockchain, and how can it be used to improve food safety worldwide? We explore the current applications and future possibilities of this emerging technology, and consider how blockchain can help provide safe food for consumers everywhere.
Blockchain is a database that records digital transactions in secure and transparent way. Blockchains have three major characteristics:
The promise of blockchain for the food industry lies in its ability to provide a fully automated system for complete traceability.
Imagine if all players in a supply chain, from raw material supplier to retailer, pushed their data to the blockchain. All transactions executed by and between these partners would be automatically added to the blockchain, showing a full record of the supply chain and any changes made to it—such as updated supplier facilities, certifications, and product composition. Ultimately, every supply chain participant would end up with a supply chain that is not just fully transparent, but also fully traceable, for any point in time.
This has significant implications for the way food companies approach food safety issues such as recalls and fraud. With a full traceability system, provided by blockchain, supply chain stakeholders would have the ability to “go back in time” and identify the exact moment the data in question was changed. Coupled with their secure nature, blockchains provide food companies with a detailed and trustworthy database of complete supply chain knowledge.
As of today, blockchain is still a new technology that is rapidly changing. Its application to food safety is still in the early stages, and use of the technology still has plenty of room to evolve.
We see three essential requirements that should be addressed for blockchain to achieve its full potential in the food industry:
In addition, data is only valuable if it is accurate. Food companies must develop methods to ensure the data declared by their suppliers and clients, such as food safety and quality certifications, is verified. Without these checks, blockchains can still be created, but not necessarily trusted.
When it comes to the food industry, some information, such as quality certifications, clearly benefit from public visibility. But other data, such as recipes or supplier practices, are proprietary and should remain private. Which begs the question: how much information should be shared, and with whom, to safeguard confidential information while still providing transparency? And to go a step further: what is the right way to communicate blockchain data to consumers?
As we are still in the early days of blockchain, we have not yet determined the right balance between public and private blockchains, and it will take time to develop. Food businesses therefore need to discuss and collaborate to determine the right model before blockchain can reach its full potential for enhancing food safety.
Blockchain technology holds great promise for food safety, with the potential to provide greater security, transparency, traceability, and trust. Yet it is only through collaboration within the food industry that the power of blockchain can be effectively used. The GFSI’s upcoming Global Food Safety Conference provides the ideal forum for retailers, manufacturers, suppliers, and other key actors of the industry to discuss new solutions for food safety and support the GFSI’s goal of providing safe food for consumers, everywhere.
Transparency-One is proud to support the GFSI as a Diamond Sponsor of the Global Food Safety Conference. Come visit us at booth 111 or find us at the Big Data panel on Wednesday, March 7, to learn how we can harness blockchain technology for improved food safety. Collaboration is key for providing safe food for consumers, and we look forward to discussing the future of supply chain transparency at this landmark event.
This post was written and contributed by:
Director of Marketing