Blockchain usage debate rages on

By Aidan Fortune

- Last updated on GMT

The benefits of blockchain were debated at this year's Food Safety Conference
The benefits of blockchain were debated at this year's Food Safety Conference
Debates over the blockchain process and its perceived use in preventing fraud in the food industry continued to be debated at the Food Safety Conference in Birmingham.

In her talk on how IT and data can overcome regulation challenge, president of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health Dawn Welham warned that blockchain would not have prevented the horsemeat scandal that hit the meat industry back in 2013.

This was backed up by head of the National Food Crime Unit Andy Morling who said there was “no silver bullet”​ when it came to preventing fraud in the food industry, and that blockchain alone might not necessarily be the solution.

Welham also warned that current food safety assurance models don’t identify intent to commit to fraud by food business operators. “Some businesses are really trying to do the right thing but need support.”

Welham called for a food integrity rating scheme for manufacturers that would give a score between one and five, similar to the existing ‘scores on the doors’ system for food vendors.

Loretis Alisauskas, UK and Ireland blockchain business development executive at IBM (pictured), was an advocate of the technique. “Blockchain technology will fundamentally change business processes, moving from traditional practices that can be expensive, inefficient and vulnerable,”​ he explained. “Itcan be used to create a trusted connection with a shared value for all participants, including end-customers.”

He warned that, with food fraud incidents costing the industry $40bn per year, consumers were demanding improved transparency, accountability and responsibility, but the traditional manual paper-based processes were creating onerous regulatory record-keeping for operators.

Alisauskas said the introduction of blockchain technology to a business would save time, remove cost, reduce risk and increase trust in the food industry, particularly in relation to helping to identify contaminated food sources.

He also claimed that IBM’s Food Trust digital solution could trace a food item back to its farm of origin in just 2.2 seconds, whereas traditional methods, which include a mix of paper and digital record-keeping, could take the operator up to six days, 18 hours and 26 minutes.

Entitled ‘A focus on future law and threats’, Food Manufacture’s Food Safety Conference 2018 was held at etc.venues Maple House, Birmingham. It was sponsored by AIB International, Pal International, and Westgate Factory Dividers.

Please click this link​ to register your interest for next year’s conference.

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