Food giants such as Nestle, Wal-Mart Stores Inc (NYSE: WMT), and Unilever NV (NYSE: UN) have joined together to announce a blockchain collaboration with International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE: IBM). Blockchains is a technology that is based on the cryptocurrency Bitcoin to maintain secure digital record and improve the traceability of their products. This will reinvigorate their data management processes over a complex network that will include processors, distributors, farmers, regulators, brokers, and consumers.
Every year, 1 in 10 people become ill globally and around 420,000 people die as a result of contaminated food due to diseases caused by bacteria, viruses, chemicals, parasites, and toxins.
The blockchain will be able to quickly identify the source of contamination. IBM is working with select universities including Fordham University, University of British Columbia, University at Buffalo, and University of Arkansas to fund research grants, develop customized curricula, and host workshops.
The company already has completed multiple projects specific to food safety in order to demonstrate ways in which the blockchain can positively impact global food traceability. Last year, IBM, Walmart, and Tsinghua University collaborated to improve the way food is tracked, transported, and sold to consumers in China while also creating a new model for food traceability. The blockchain aims to help ensure food safety for Chinese consumers. Product information such as farm origination, batch numbers, factory and processing data, expiration dates and shipping details is digitally connected to food items and then entered into the blockchain. Any information can provide data that could potentially reveal food safety issues with a certain product.