Increasing end-to-end traceability in food supply chains
Here is a statistic bound to worry both food producers and consumers: According to the TÜV SÜD Safety Gauge Food Segment Report, only 64 percent of companies say they can trace every component of their products through the supply chain. In a time dubbed the “era of transparency,” this is disconcerting to say the least. But blockchain technology could potentially bridge this gap.
Some say change cannot come quickly enough. Product recalls are on the rise in recent years, as reported by the UK’s Food Standards Agency. Allergen labelling issues are also causing an uncomfortable recall rise in the EU, and the United States.
In an increasingly aware market, food safety problems can escalate to international incidents. Take the salmonella outbreaks in Canada and the United States, the high-profile horsemeat food fraud scandal in Europe, or the recent Fipronil contaminated eggs scandal for example. The public is perpetually on guard, and the slightest of scares can now affect producers’ reputations, often resulting in an instantaneous hit on profits.
For larger companies dealing with multiple suppliers, it can often take weeks or months to track down the source of a contamination, during which time social media storms can brew to critical mass. More importantly, the time lag to locate the source would lead to an increased scale of contamination and a resulting grave cost. This is why manufacturers are holding out hope that blockchain breakthroughs could one day help nip all potential contamination issues in the bud.
But what is blockchain? And what can it do for the food industry?