Walmart recently announced its plans to require the use of food-tracking blockchain technology for the company’s suppliers of lettuce, spinach, and other greens. The mandate will be rolled out in two phases, with the first portion requiring direct suppliers to create one-step back traceability by January 31, 2019. The second phase of the program requires end-to-end traceability all the way back to the farm of origin by the end of September 2019.
“Customers trust us to help them put quality food on their tables for themselves and their families,” Executive Vice President of Food for Walmart U.S. Charles Redfield said in a statement. “We have to go further than offering great food at an everyday low price. Our customers need to know they can trust us to help ensure that food is safe. These new requirements will help us do just that.”
There are multiple driving factors behind the move to mandate traceability. One reason stems from the recent E. coli outbreak that originated in Arizona earlier in the year, which resulted in the deaths of five people. The outbreak resulted in the need to discard millions of bags and heads of romaine lettuce that could have potentially been avoided with the use of blockchain technology, thus saving a considerable amount of waste. Another reason for the move is related to retaining consumer trust, as there is an increased demand from consumers for better transparency.
Walmart has been working with IBM on its Food Trust Network for the past 18 months. Other companies that have been involved include Dole, Nestlé, Driscoll’s, Golden State Foods, McCormick and Company, McLane Company, Kroger, Tyson Foods, and Unilever.
The use of blockchain will reportedly allow food to be tracked from the field, to processing facilities, to the warehouse and eventually to the final designated retail outlet. The technology will also have the potential to identify what specific area of a farm a product came from, along with the time that it was harvested.