Walmart Requires Produce Suppliers To Implement Blockchain To Improve Food Safety

Blockchain, News | September 25, 2018 By:

Retail giant Walmart and its unit Sam’s Club will require suppliers of leafy green vegetables to implement a blockchain-based farm-to-store tracking system.

In a press release, the retail giant said that it asked its suppliers of leafy greens, like romaine lettuce and spinach, to trace their products all the way back to the farm using the IBM Food Trust network, an end-to-end traceability system. According to Walmart, suppliers are expected to have all these systems in place by September 2019.

“Walmart believes the current one-step up and one-step back model of food traceability is outdated for the 21st Century and that by, working together, we can do better. There is no question that there is a strong public-health and business-case for enhanced food traceability,” Walmart said. “By quickly tracing leafy greens back to source during an outbreak using recent advances in new and emerging technologies, impacts to human health can be minimized, health officials can conduct rapid and more thorough root cause analysis to inform future prevention efforts, and the implication and associated-losses of unaffected products that are inaccurately linked to an outbreak can be avoided.”

Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that at least five people died and dozens were taken ill earlier this year due to an outbreak of E.coli linked to Romaine lettuce. At the time, health officials at the CDC told Americans to avoid eating lettuce that was grown in Yuma, Arizona.

But Frank Yiannas, VP of Food Safety at Walmart, said that it was difficult for consumers to know how to determine where their lettuce was grown.

“None of the bags of salad had ‘Yuma, Arizona’ on them,” Yiannas said. “In the future, using the technology we’re requiring, a customer could potentially scan a bag of salad and know with certainty where it came from.”

Robert Tauxe, MD, director of CDC’s Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases, said that enhanced ability to trace a contaminated food back to its source will help government agencies and companies to identify the source of a foodborne disease outbreak, coordinate more effective recalls of foods thought to be contaminated, and learn where past problems began.

“We think these steps will strengthen future prevention efforts and better protect the public’s health from the threat of foodborne illness,” Tauxe said.