What’s in my Shopping Cart? Blockchain-based Food Safety Platform in China

If the age old saying “we are what we eat” holds true, then it follows that for us to be be healthy, we must eat healthy. It is thus important to be informed of where are food comes from and what happens to our food whilst on its way to our plate, for us to be sure that what we consume maintains standard. There have been cases of ‘food fraud‘ in many nations across the globe, but one nation sticks out with a mature reputation in this category, that’s well past its expiration date – China.

Over the decade, China has had several food scandals that have made headlines globally. From melamine-laden baby milk, to “Avatar pork” that glowed in the dark , to “gutter oil” that was recycled for human consumption, China has had to deal with the strangest of cases. One solution to better the safety systems in this regard is through traceability systems – and what better than through the blockchain.

Announced in a press release on Tuesday at the 2019 China Products Safety Publicity Week Traceability System Construction Seminar, Walmart China – the Chinese wing of the U.S. retail behemoth – said that it will be launching a public blockchain-based platform aimed to address food safety concerns in the country.

In a joint venture with public blockchain project VeChain Thor, PwC, cattle company Inner Mongolia Kerchin, and the China Chain-Store & Franchise Association, Walmart China announced that it will be launching the Walmart China Blockchain Traceability Platform (WCBTP) as one of its latest endeavours in improving food traceability.

Users would be able to engage with WCBTP by using their smartphone to scan products to access detailed information, such as the source of the tracked products and geographic location, the route the product took to the supermarket, product inspection reports and more.

Walmart China already revealed 23 product lines that the system will track and plans to release another 100 products for further inclusion, covering more than 10 product categories. By the end of next year, the firm expects to see the fresh meat products tracked on the platform accounting for 50 percent of its total sales in that category. Further, blockchain-tracked products will account for 40 percent of total vegetables sales and 12.5 percent of seafood sales. Further down the line, Walmart China’s blockchain platform is expected to synchronize data from local government traceability platforms and suppliers’ platforms to provide a more robust platform.

“We believe that Walmart’s Blockchain Traceability System will be an excellent example of blockchain technology applied in the retail industry, helping to improve food safety and quality management, and providing a strong guarantee for building consumer trust,” said Elton Yeung, Strategy and Innovation lead at PwC Mainland China and Hong Kong.

VeChain was launched on the 30th of June in 2018 and aimed to be the first to put “real business” applications on a public blockchain. It uses a form of permissioned consensus called proof-of-authority, an alternative to mechanisms like proof-of-work mining or proof-of-stake validation as used on other blockchains such as Ethereum and Bitcoin’s blockchain.

“VeChain will work with Walmart China to actively take heed of the call of the government, by utilizing technology to promote the traceability of fresh food, and to provide innovative solutions for the traceability platform through digital technology, so as to generate more transparent and reassuring consumption experience,” said Kevin Feng, COO of VeChain.

With access to all the information on a product’s life cycle, we are certain that customer are not on the short-end when it comes to knowing where their food has come from and where it has been. However, that still leaves the question of whether customers are being given the means to understand all the information they are being fed, in order to make well-guided, smart decisions about what they choose off of Walmart’s shelf.

 

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