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The tech company will help retailers and manufacturers use blockchain to track the origins of food products.

Elisabeth Sherman
August 22, 2017

Several corporations that sell food have announced they are teaming up with IBM to fight food contamination using blockchain technology.

Nestle and Unilever (which produces Lipton brand tea among other food brands) have joined Walmart, which previously announced that it would be using blockchain to track supply chains in an effort to end food fraud, in using the new technology to “trace the source of contaminated produce in mere seconds,” according to a report from CNBC.

IBM announced today that it would allow the food retailers to use its “blockchain network” to find out where any potentially contaminated food had originated from, by referencing the program’s so-called digital ledger of transactions. The digital format allows companies to easily track the movement of their food products, keeping tabs on its condition along the way.

“We're trying to use [blockchain] to get that transparency across the whole system so that we can find the problem, so that we can make it easier for people to run safer systems, run safer food supply chains,” Brigid McDermott, IBM's vice president for blockchain business development, told CNBC.

Originally, the founder of bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto, created blockchain to keep track of all bitcoin transactions. Now, it provides corporations with a “secure, transparent” network of information that will hopefully make the global food system safer for consumers.

“Blockchain…[is] equivalent to shining a light on food ecosystem participants that will further promote responsible actions and behaviors," Frank Yiannas, vice president for food safety at Walmart, said in a statement today.

What this partnership means for shoppers is that grocery stores and corporations will be able to track where the food they sell comes from—potentially resulting in fewer contaminations by diseases like salmonella and E. coli, fewer cases of food poisoning, fewer recalls, and generally a safer market for food that people can trust to not make them sick or dupe them with diluted, mislabeled, or otherwise fake food—a necessary advancement in technology as the global food market continues to grow.