How Blockchain Technology Is Helping To Fight Food Fraud
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), every year one in 10 people worldwide falls ill from eating contaminated food and 420,000 die as a result.
Scandals affecting the food chain are far reaching, ranging from the 2013 horsemeat scandal in Europe to China’s 2008 toxic mixture of milk and infant formula mixed with melamine, which killed six children, put thousands of others in hospital and sickened many more.
Last month, a total of 15 EU states, plus Switzerland and Hong Kong received egg products contaminated by an insecticide harmful to human health. According to the U.K.’s Food Standard Agency (FSA), around 700,000 of the eggs had arrived in the U.K. Additionally, Public Health England (PHE) revealed in late August that pork products being sold by a leading U.K. supermarket may have infected thousands of people with a pig virus that causes liver cirrhosis and neurological damage, also known as Hepatitis E (HEV). Whereas pigs from the U.K. don’t carry HEV, the virus was detected in pork products from Holland, Germany and other mainland European countries.
Speaking to CoinJournal, Sean Crossey, associate digital marketing analyst at arc-net, said these incidents highlight that we can no longer rely on traditional thinking when it comes to safeguarding our food.
“Whether our food is being adulterated, contaminated or simply not what it claims to be, our food safety and quality management systems must be sophisticated enough to provide a full picture of the food we eat,”
Formed following the horsemeat scandal, arc-net’s platform is designed to deliver confidence in a global supply chain. It does this by using the arc-net blockchain to tag and identify individual animals at birth and DNA sampling with RFID technology. This can then be tracked across the entire supply chain.
arc-net recently joined forces with business advisors PwC in the Netherlands to combat global food fraud using the blockchain. A report from PwC highlights that food fraud costs the global economy over $40 billion a year.
According to Crossey, while the blockchain is not a silver bullet, it can be an invaluable tool in the prevention of food fraud.
“The blockchain provides the immutable, open platform that is needed to introduce trust back into our complex food supply chains,” he said. “This is where the blockchain’s role as a decentralised ledger is so powerful, recording transactions and storing information that can’t later be adulterated.”
Unsurprisingly, a high percentage of people are keen to know what’s exactly in their food. A 2016 Label Insight Study puts this figure at 83 percent whereas 75 percent don’t trust the accuracy of food labels. Crossey believes, though, that the blockchain can solve this issue.
In addition to helping protect the food supply chain, the blockchain is demonstrating value for companies who integrate it into their businesses. According to Crossey, one of the most important commodities for businesses is data. As a result, companies can record and store all operational data throughout every stage of a product's life cycle, providing consumers with a wealth of high-quality information.
“The blockchain then allows companies to not only promote their brand story by displaying the story of their products journey but verify sustainability claims, as well as claims such as country of origin labelling, which have existed in something of a grey area,” he said.
He adds that the blockchain empowers the consumer to make informed decisions on what they are buying. At present, the food supply chain has become so complex that it’s nearly impossible for food producers and retailers to guarantee the provenance of their products. While high profile events bring international attention to the security of the food supply chain, Crossey states that it’s important to remember that these are not simply outliers.
“Our food supply is under constant threat which means public health is under constant threat.”