Can Blockchain recapture people’s faith in the food industry?
On a cold November morning in 2012, agents of the U.S. FDA (Food and Drug Administration) paid a surprise visit to ‘Castle Cheese Inc’ – a cheese factory based out in rural Pennsylvania. The company that was till then known for selling 100 percent real parmesan to some of the most renowned grocery chains was found to use substitutes and fillers such as wood pulp in their product. What followed next was an untold story of fraud and deceit about a company that had been known for manufacturing and distributing safe, healthy and honest product for almost a century.
In late 2012, US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) agents landed up without any prior notice at Castle Cheese Inc – a cheese factory in Pennsylvania. Castle Cheese Inc had a strong reputations as one of the sellers of parmesan that was 100 percent authentic to the big players in the grocery business. The FDA agents discovered that they were using substitutes like wood pulp in their parmesan and were therefore lying about the originality of their product. So began a well publicised story of betrayal and dishonesty centred around an organisation that had built a reputation for itself in the community based on their manufacturing and selling of a safe, authentic and healthy product for close to one hundred years.
Food fraud occurrences like this show us that the supply of food is a regular target of adulteration, contamination, deceit and increasing pressure from regulatory authorities. The status quo of how we track food and register this information is lacking in structure and efficiency and so is not meeting the increasing requirements of the supply chain. This is causing organisations to find themselves in positions of prolonged pressure to implement a process that can bridge these gaps that exist in the way things currently work.
A Blockchain solution has a great chance for safety, transparency and authentication in the food industry as it eliminates all of the drawbacks of the current processes. Introduction of blockchain into the supply chain for food serve as a game changes for businesses and can actively solve existing challenges in the supply chain like transparency, traceability and accountability.
Improved Traceability: With a Blockchain solution, all members of the supply chain will have transparent access to the product’s movement while in transit, that is, from origin point which would be the farm to the customer who purchases it from a grocery store. The information that is obtained by each member in this chain is authenticated because the technology collects consensus before it is communicated across the supply chain. This data is shared in a read only format and so members only get an already verified historical report of the item.
Increased Transparency: With blockchain, all the middle men are eliminated since their roles become redundant. Blockchain offers a network where each transaction does not require authorisation by any third party. Smart contracts dictate a set of guidelines that must be respected by all involved parties. This fosters an environment of increased transparency in the network.
Increased Food Safety: A big advantage of blockchain technology is that it gives all members of the network access to information. This increases the ability of customers and officials to take the required steps before any accident takes place. As data reliability and integrity is guaranteed in a blockchain powered supply chain for food, avoidance of fraud and adulteration along with ensuring the security of financial transactions can be promised.
The food supply chain is very divided and complicated. A blockchain enabled solution for the same will lead to increased traceability and security of information as well as urging cooperation among members in the supply chain. This will also lead to the creation of other methods of winning back the trust of the customer as well as guarding the food industry from dealing with more embarrassment and loss of faith due to new food scandals.