Supply Chain

Nestlé, Unilever, Kroger and more sign up with IBM in major blockchain food safety deal

(c)iStock.com/Georgijevic

Remember IBM’s deal with Walmart aimed at incorporating blockchain into the food safety process? Well things just got a lot bigger.

IBM today announced nine companies across the global food supply chain – 10 if you include Walmart – have signed up to collaborate on exploring blockchain technologies.

Dole, Driscoll’s, Golden State Foods, Kroger, McCormick and Company, McLane Company, Nestle, Tyson Foods and Unilever will work with IBM to ‘further strengthen consumer confidence in the global food system’, in the words of the Armonk giant.

For food companies and retailers, blockchain is intriguing because of its transparency in being able to trace each step of the product’s journey, all the way back to the farmer.

Frank Yiannas, vice president of food safety at Walmart, explained that during a recent staff meeting, he asked his team to track a container of mango spears for each point in the food system, adding that he did not wish to disclose the results.

The news comes alongside the launch of a new blockchain platform – the first fully integrated, enterprise-grade production blockchain platform, as IBM puts it – alongside consulting services to beef up rollouts and strategic initiatives for organisations.

“Unlike any technology before it, blockchain is transforming the way like-minded organisations come together and enabling a new level of trust based on a single view of the truth,” said Marie Wieck, IBM blockchain general manager in a statement. “Our work with organisations across the food ecosystem, as well as IBM’s new platform, will further unleash the vast potential of this exciting technology, making it faster for organisations of all sizes and in all industries to move from concept to production to improve the way business gets done.”

According to 2015 figures from the World Health Organisation (WHO), almost one in 10 people fall ill each year from eating contaminated food – with 420,000 dying as a result. Naturally, each of the food retailers emphasised security in their reaction; Scott Stillwell, SVP of food safety and quality assurance for Tyson Goods said that producing safe food was ‘critical’ for their business. “It appears blockchain can help provide trust not only about the origin of food, but also about how that food moved through the supply chain,” he added.

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