A recent E. Coli outbreak in lettuce has convinced the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that it could adapt blockchain for tracing food in a complete supply chain. Dr Scott Gottlieb informed in a CNBC interview that the FDA had already requested Walmart’s ex-head of food safety, Frank Yiannas, to be its food and veterinary medicine supply commissioner.
Dr Gottlieb said: “We have a guy starting… the former head of food safety at Walmart who is going to be coming to the FDA to help us put in place among other things better track and trace using tools like blockchain maybe to even do track-and-trace on the food supply chain.”
The traceable and immutable nature of blockchain technology makes it a suitable tool for tracking food back to their sources. Gottlieb believes that this can be used to not only trace the source easily but allows for specific warnings to be issued, rather than broad ones that also affect uncontaminated produce.
“In the future, using the technology we’re requiring, a customer could potentially scan a bag of salad and know with certainty where it came from”, Yiannas said. In his role in Walmart, Yiannas had set up a blockchain system that helped the multi-store chain track its vegetables, right down to the farms.
This move is similar to Carrefour, a French retail giant that has banked on IBM’s Food Trust blockchain system for enhancing food security. In July, British watchdog, Food Standards Agency announced it had completed a successful trial of creating an end to end tracing system for beef using blockchain technology too.
These moves show that big retail and sale companies are warming up to the decentralized technology, banking on its efficiency and extensive record keeping to speed up and address issues related to food.
Critics, like Ethereum’s Vitalik Buterin, have suggested that IBM’s concerted effort in blockchain food tracking amounts to mere marketing hype. They see blockchain technology as a tool rather than an infallible means of guaranteeing credibility in supply chains.
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