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September 5, 2018

Staying up-to-date on every new food safety rule and regulation is no easy task. The Sanitary Transportation of Food rule (STF) is the most recent example of the challenges that come with meeting ever-changing industry rules and regulations.

The STF rule aims to increase traceability and reduce the risk of contaminating food and beverages during transportation, focusing on vehicles and equipment, transportation operations, training, and records. For many companies, this puts a new strain on their supply chain and procurement teams.

One solution to traceability and transparency problems within your quality operations may come through blockchain technology. In a recent article in Food Engineering magazine, Jesse Dowdle, CTO at RizePoint, discussed the potential impact of blockchain in food safety.

“Blockchain tech in the context of food safety… with the way it links data points together, it becomes incredibly difficult to impossible for any possible ‘bad actors’ to tamper with data. But it’s not just a way to stop tampering — the benefits are huge when it comes to food safety, protecting your brand, and FSMA compliance.”

The Basics of Blockchain in Food Safety

The article further explains the foundation of blockchain technology and how it could revolutionize data and documentation organization by making results traceable, tamper-resistant, and transparent.

1. Traceability

Blockchain technology digitally records and tracks all stages of the supply chain and keeps detailed documentation for future use. It is easy to pinpoint when and where noncompliant issues occurred to hold the right individuals accountable as you strengthen weak links in your supply chain.

2. Tamper-resistant

With blockchain, all details are uploaded and linked together. It’s virtually impossible for one or even a few people to tamper with the data whether through human error or bad actors. The data is stored in a secure location and becomes a single source of truth.

3. Transparency

Blockchain creates a network of digitally linked data points across the entire supply chain giving you visibility into your food safety and supply chain operations. Documentation is found quickly when requested by the FDA ensuring accountability.

The Future of Blockchain in Food Safety

It’s clear that blockchain has the potential to transform global supply chain traceability, but it’s important to remember that using blockchain in food safety is not a magic bullet.

Some challenges will still be difficult to address in the processing and distribution of certain kinds of goods. For example, flour manufacturers source several farms for wheat, but the wheat may get processed all together. This means that it may be difficult and slow to trace the actual source during an outbreak. This is a unique challenge that obviously affects exact traceability, and it seems unlikely that blockchain is the entire solution.

It could be argued that the most exciting potential for blockchain may be from helping the food safety community and many others build open networks of reputable suppliers that meet specific quality standards as well as social responsibility standards. It could be a disrupting event that could help build up industry-wide supplier transparency. An open network would help individual businesses find the qualified suppliers they need, which in turn would help the food safety industry improve as a whole.

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