How Effective is Blockchain in Maintaining the Authenticity of Food Items
Do you take pride in being a smart shopper? Surely you can tell a fake cashmere from real by just touching or judge the authenticity of a designer bag by looking at the stitches. But what about the cheese, the ‘Ethiopian blend’ coffee or the bottle of overpriced ‘organic’ honey that you just bought from the grocery store? Can you be sure that your food is not fake?
Sadly there is no sure way of knowing that, other than trusting what’s printed on the packet, making food counterfeiting one of the biggest concerns of consumers today.
Problems with the Food Supply Chain
With the world population already at a 7.8 billion mark and growing one can only imagine the quantity of food required to feed every mouth. Now add to that the concern of the food being produced safely and sustainably and it becomes an epic task to accomplish. A unified approach towards monitoring and supervising the production and distribution of the food materials can be the only solution to counter the food counterfeiting issues. However, that is a humongous task that involves relevant information and data in bulk concerning the conditions under which the food is grown to ensure that it is completely safe and healthy.
Apart from that, the status of the food, while it travels from the field to the grocer’s passing multiple stops in between that includes sorting, processing, packaging, and storage, etc. needs tracking as well, for contamination alert.
There is the added issue of fake food products getting mixed with the real ones, which happens more often than people realize. All these raging issues in the food supply chain reveal the huge gaps in a system that needs immediate fixing.
Food Items under the ‘Fake’ Scanner:
Every year the global food market suffers a loss of hundreds of billions of dollars due to food counterfeiting, making it a deep concern for all involved in the food supply chain. It’s not just the counterfeiters that are to be blamed here. Over the years, food manufacturers have also been blamed for producing and distributing poor quality food, ignoring health statutes set by the authorities. Accusations of intentional distribution of contaminated food items by enterprises are nothing new.
Here’s a list of the most common food items that have popped-upon the counterfeiting radar:
- Olive and other types of edible oil
There are other food items as well, but these are the ones that are supposedly tampered with the most. So what is the solution?
Use of Blockchain to Battle Counterfeits:
So far, Blockchain technology has been instrumental in regulating and streamlining supply chain systems. It has introduced values like traceability and transparency into the system. Sectors that have taken the Blockchain leap are drugs, diamond, mineral ore, etc.
The distributed ledger technology can help create a food chain, where all relevant data about the supply chain activities gets entered and updated continuously. Since the shared ledger is immutable, there is no chance that the entries can be altered or tampered with. If changes need to be made, that can be done by creating a fresh block.
This implies that every single detail starting from the production of the raw materials to distribution of the end product to retail outlets and every single stage in between will get registered and monitored on a Blockchain network. That way, it becomes virtually impossible for counterfeiters to contaminate the food chain with fake products. Since every stage is tracked through the Blockchain even the manufacturers cannot play foul without the other participants knowing about it.
Blockchain-Food Use Case – Olive Oil Manufacture and Distribution :
Let’s elaborate further through the olive oil use case, which is among the top contenders for food counterfeiting.
Blockchain technology can be used to check the authenticity of both the extra virgin and refined variety. The shared ledger will archive and detail vital stages of olive oil manufacturing and distribution. Such as,
- the orchard where they grow the olives
- the mill where the olives are crushed
- processing facility where the olive oil gets filtered
The Blockchain network will record all these details and since every participant has a copy of the records, any change made will need to be agreed upon unanimously. No participant will be able to tamper with the records and sell low-grade oil to the buyers. Even the consumers will be able to access these records by scanning the QR code on the packaging, making them privy to all essential information.
There are companies in place that are working on authenticating the sourcing and manufacturing data of olive oil using Blockchain technology. The same process can be extended to other food products as well, creating a legitimate and safe food chain, powered by DLT. As Blockchain gets gradually implemented in the food supply chain, you will not have to think twice about the quality and authenticity of the food item before buying it from the supermarket.