Walmart and Sam’s Club have sent a letter to suppliers of fresh, leafy greens asking them to trace their products all the way back to the farm using blockchain technology. Suppliers are expected to have all these systems in place by this time next year.
This change means that the information gathered by these suppliers will be open and accessible through technology that offers real-time, end-to-end traceability from farm to table. Blockchain allows for digitized sharing of data in a secure and trusted way.
Earlier this year, consumers and retailers were forced to throw away large amounts of romaine lettuce when it was linked to an E. coli contamination. Health officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told Americans to avoid eating lettuce that was grown in Yuma, Ariz. “But it was difficult for consumers to know how to determine where their lettuce was grown,” said Frank Yiannas, vice president of food safety at Walmart. “None of the bags of salad had ‘Yuma, Arizona’ on them. 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.”
With the traditional paper-based method of capturing information that exists at many farms, packing houses, and warehouses, tracking down important data from multiple sources is extremely time-consuming. “We’ve been working with IBM to digitize that, so the information is captured on the farm with a handheld system. It’s [also] captured at the packing house at the supplier,” said Yiannas.
Now, Walmart plans to use the power of blockchain to speed up identifying, researching, and reacting to food safety situations. “Customers trust us to help them put quality food on their tables for themselves and their families,” said Charles Redfield, executive vice president of food for Walmart U.S. “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.”