Food safety is one of the greatest concerns at global level. From farm to store shelf, each entity that handles and processes food must ensure that the products are fit for consumption. However, every year we see instances of food tampering or food poisoning outbreaks. Before the authorities step in, and before the source of contamination is pinpointed, people get sick. One supermarket chain wants to do something about this situation. Auchan, the 13th largest food retailer in the world, chose blockchain technology solution by German TE-FOOD, to improve food safety.
Blockchain – Greater Transparency, Increased Consumer Trust
The retail brand has started rolling out its blockchain-based food traceability program in five countries: France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Senegal. The French brand initiated this program with an 18-month trial period in Vietnam.
TE-FOOD’s blockchain-based traceability solution allows users to trace the origin of food products back to their place of origin. Each product included in the TE-FOOD program has a QR code that consumers can scan with their mobile phone.
Beside traceability, consumers can also check whether the product marketed as bio comes from an organic farm. Some of the products included in the initial roll-out in France are for example carrots, potatoes and chicken. Similarly, Italy will, aside from chicken, start offering blockchain based traceability for tomatoes. And, customers in Spain will be able to check the origin of traditional Iberian pork products.
A Growing Need for Accountability
The TE-FOOD program, implemented by Auchan, uses the FoodChain global traceability information ledger to ensure data authenticity. In the context of consumers’ growing demand for brands to be more accountable, blockchain offers a valid solution.
According to a research conducted by the Food Marketing institute and Label Insight, 75% of consumers would start buying from a brand that offers detailed product information. The details printed on the label are not enough for having a clear idea of the product origin.
Blockchain Technology Makes Its Way to Australian Food Industry
The blockchain adoption global trend is also present in Australia. Several companies have developed solutions that help consumers have more confidence in the food they buy. For example, Sydney-based AgriDigital has a software solution developed specifically for agribusinesses. The company demonstrated that blockchain technology can help the supply chain in numerous ways. Specifically in:
- working faster through smart contracts,
- becoming more flexible to market demand,
- offering customers more confidence through transparency and product traceability.
Similarly, another Australian company, Melbourne-based AgriChain, has also developed a blockchain solution for agricultural supply chain. It helps all stakeholders in the supply chain create faster and easier business relationships. From individual farms to logistic companies and retail stores, the participants can perform transactions and track products along the entire supply chain.
Why Is Blockchain Important for Food Safety?
The recent E.coli outbreak in the United States stands as proof that the role blockchain could play in food safety is an important one. According to the US Center for Disease Control, romaine lettuce caused this outbreak. The government agency recorded the first cases of illness on October 8. However, the farms responsible for the introduction of E.coli infected lettuce in the food chain were clearly identified by region on November 26.
This means that it took US authorities one month and a half to trace the origin of unsafe food using traditional methods. During this time, over 50 people got sick. With blockchain technology, a sample of infected food can be traced back to its place of origin within minutes. This would allow the authorities to act faster, contain the outbreak and prevent people from getting seriously ill.
A Quick Look into the Future
As technology advances, companies like TE-FOOD, AgriDigital and AgriChain can help change the supply chain at global level. Manufacturers and distributors can track sensitive products in transit, like food and pharmaceuticals. Thus, they can reduce fraud and product tampering. On the other hand, consumers can check the exact origin of the products they buy and make a completely informed choice. And finally, authorities can step in faster and more efficiently in preventing damaged and dangerous products from reaching the store shelves.
As Auchan proves, it is just a matter of trusting new technologies like the blockchain and taking the step forward by implementing them.