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Blockchain technology changing food safety traceability

The idea of IBM Food Trust is to create transparency and traceability across the food supply chain.

Blockchain technology is still in its infancy and has yet to be widely adopted by business, but one area where it is being used is IBM Food Trust, a supply blockchain-based cloud network developed by IBM and used by retailers, suppliers and farmers to trace food from the farm to the grocery shelf.

The idea of IBM Food Trust is to create transparency and traceability across the food supply chain. It is the only network of its kind and is used by major retailers such as Walmart.

At a recent forum on the potential for blockchain technology in agriculture at the North Carolina Biotechnology Center in Research Triangle Park, Mark Parzygnat, program director of blockchain for IBM, explained how the technology is used to prevent contaminated produce from entering the marketplace.

Walmart is using the technology to track products such as bags of leafy greens and heads of lettuce. The technology will allow the company to pinpoint a product’s source and exactly which batches may be contaminated. Walmart is requiring farms that supply them with greens to add detailed information about their product into the Food Trust network.

In a letter to its leafy green suppliers, Walmart noted that blockchain technology reduces the amount of time it takes to track a food item from a Walmart store back to a supplier in seconds as compared to days and sometimes weeks.

Parzygnat says blockchain is world-changing technology. “It saves a tremendous amount of time, it saves a tremendous amount of money and saves people,” he says.

The idea is to reduce the impact of food recalls through instant access of data. Parzygnat says the technology can help reduce the one in 10 people who get sick and the 400,000 fatalities worldwide from food-borne illnesses.

Parzygnat and others believe the blockchain is a game changer just like the internet. They say it will do for data management what the internet did for information sharing and communication.

Today, people can’t fathom doing business without the internet. Who knows, soon they won’t fathom doing business without blockchain.

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