STORES Magazine - April 2018 - 27
There are some inconsistencies and
overlapping data," Mehring says. "And
while they have trusted partners, you
don't know how reliable that is from
day to day."
'AN IMMUTABLE RECORD'
Regulators and those in the industry
have been working on improving food
safety and visibility. The FDA Food
Safety Modernization Act of 2011
aimed to shift the focus from response
to prevention of food-borne illnesses.
It implemented several rules that called
for accredited third-party certification,
new manufacturing practices, supplier
verification programs and higher
standards for growing, harvesting and
Experts and industry insiders
say blockchain could be a valid
infrastructure to support many of those
capabilities. Blockchain technology
was initially developed to support
Bitcoin cryptocurrency but Chris
Burruss, president of the Blockchain
in Transport Alliance, says there's a
big difference between the two. While
regulators and authoritative bodies
question the legitimacy of Bitcoin and
other cryptocurrencies, the underlying
blockchain infrastructure is widely
accepted to have beneficial applications
in many industries.
"The original blockchain was
developed for Bitcoin to have
an immutable record of all the
transactions," Burruss says. "It's really
just the system for tracking it, but it's
Unlike traditional centralized systems
controlled by one party, blockchain's
"distributed ledger" system stores data
in a shared database synchronized
across a network hosted at multiple
sites by a variety of institutions that
Data from the Stericycle Recall Index indicates that food
product recalls have risen over the past five years,
skyrocketing 93 percent since 2012.
constantly verify and update records in
the chain. Experts say the combination
of transparency and redundancy makes
tampering extremely difficult.
Blockchain is a "reliable, trustworthy
and secure" way to store and present
data, Mehring says. Zest Labs uses the
technology on its Zest Fresh platform
to create an added layer of trust and
security throughout the supply chain.
"Blockchain is a nice technology that
we leverage for building a standard
interaction for retailers. It's more
important to them than growers and
farmers because the further you go
down the supply chain, the less trusted
the information is," Mehring says.
Blockchain can take data on an
operational basis and in real time, and
incorporates the food safety concept of
"hazard analysis critical control points"
so stakeholders proactively know the
food has passed all required tests.
In a perfect deployment, blockchain
can offer a permanent, tamper-proof
record of a product's entire journey and
touchpoints through its entire lifespan,
from farm to table.
Zest Labs produced a white paper
with ChainLink about blockchain's role
in the produce supply chain. It found
that the detailed traceability can offer
stronger assurance of origin and chain
of custody, faster and more precise
recalls, fresher food with less waste and
fewer contamination incidents.
THE ROAD TO ADOPTION
Blockchain is still in its infancy, and
it could be at least a few years before
widescale adoption in the food supply
The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011
implemented several rules that called for accredited
third-party certification, new manufacturing practices,
supplier verification programs and higher standards for
growing, harvesting and packaging produce.
chain. For such a system to work
there will need to be industry-wide
collaboration and acceptance of data
standards and formats. Blockchainbased technology will also have to be
easy for participants to integrate into
their own systems, Mehring says.
That could take some time, as
executives in many industries still don't
understand the technology or approach
it with skepticism. A recent survey by
Deloitte found that 39 percent of senior
executives have little or no knowledge
about blockchain. "It is fair to say that
industry is still confused to a degree
about the potential for blockchain. ...
about a third consider the technology
overhyped," says Deloitte Managing
Director David Schatsky.
Some large stakeholders are already
piloting and testing blockchain
programs. In August 2017, Walmart,
Nestlé, Kroger, Tyson Foods, Dole
and several other consumer product
companies worked with IBM to
integrate blockchain into their supply
chains. (STORES previously wrote
about blockchain and food safety in
the February/March issue.) Laurence
Haziot, global managing director and
general manager of consumer industries
at IBM, says much as the internet has
changed retail in profound ways, so too
will blockchain, and even more so in
The biggest impact blockchain will
make is in reducing what Haziot calls
the "multiplicity of information"
that comes from fragmented systems
throughout the supply chain.
"If you want to trace back, you have
to deal with data coming from so many
systems. It is completely fragmented
today," Haziot says. "Blockchain
could offer one indisputable version of
IBM also recently worked with
Walmart and ecommerce company
JD.com in China to show how
blockchain could work in a broad-based
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