Blockchain takes off in food and drink

By Rick Pendrous

- Last updated on GMT

A blockchain study lets shoppers monitor organic bacon provenance
A blockchain study lets shoppers monitor organic bacon provenance

Related tags Supply chain Organic food Security

The pursuit of improved traceability and fraud prevention along the global food supply chain has resulted in the increased use of sophisticated computer systems, which allow secure information sharing between those involved in transactions along the chain.

So-called ‘blockchains’, in which continuously growing lists of records or ‘blocks’ are linked and secured using cryptography, are finding growing popularity.

Blockchains are said to be inherently resistant to modification of the data and can record transactions between two parties efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way. Once recorded, the data – including dates of transactions in any given block – cannot be altered retroactively without the alteration of all subsequent blocks and without the agreement of those in the chain.

Only last month, Arc-net, a company that has developed a platform for supply chain authentication and security, announced a partnership with business services group PwC Netherlands that would involve both companies combining their specialist industry knowledge to create a new model for food integrity, supply chain security and compliance.

This cloud-based platform uses the power of blockchain to enable food producers and retailers to assure customers of the provenance and authenticity of their products.

Fell ill from eating contaminated food

PwC estimated that food fraud costs the global economy in excess of $40bn (£30.5bn) a year, which it claimed equated to an additional £3.82 a week on the price of an average weekly shop. The World Health Organisation estimated that every year one-in-10 people worldwide fell ill from eating contaminated food.

The collaboration between Arc-net and PwC Netherlands would provide global food brand owners with the ability to deliver on product and brand security while fulfilling supply chain mapping and compliance, said Arc-net chief executive Kieran Kelly.

“We are extremely confident that this partnership will allow both the Arc-net platform and PwC to deliver on our joint commitment to enhance the security and integrity of the food we eat,”​ said Kelly.

A survey of supply chain professionals, published within Food Manufacture’s​ Supply chain supplement, found that 51% of respondents’ businesses currently had requirements to map their supply chains. The supplement and survey were sponsored by Authenticate Information Systems.

Hans Schoolderman, PwC’s partner for sustainability and food integrity, added: “Where many start-ups and others discuss and research the power of new technologies, the Arc-net platform offers a proven solution based on the power of blockchain that gives ultimate transparency on safety, quality and integrity of food.

‘Transparency on safety, quality and integrity of food’

“The partnership allows us to bring Arc’s breakthrough solution to our clients, helping them solve the important challenge of bringing high quality, safe and transparent products to the market and improve the trust we have in the food we eat.”

In a separate move, a pilot project on blockchain technology of organic foods was carried out last month by the Soil Association and start-up technology firm Provenance.

The study allowed shoppers to trace the whole story of organic food with a simple scan from their mobile phones at the shop shelf.

Shoppers were able to tap their smartphones on packets of Eversfield Organics bacon on sale in select As Nature Intended stores, and instantly retrieve the product’s complete supply chain journey.

It was claimed to be the first pilot study of its kind in the UK – noteworthy especially since IBM, Nestlé and France’s Casino Group (among others) had recently announced they would begin working with blockchain technology to engage with shoppers, said the Soil Association.

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