Blockchain technology received global attention last fall after Walmart asked its suppliers of fresh, leafy greens to begin tracing their products back to the farm.
“Walmart believes the current one-step up and one-step back model of food traceability is outdated for the 21st Century,” the company wrote in a letter to suppliers asking them to make changes during 2019.
Walmart made the decision in response to E. coli contamination in romaine lettuce that spread through the food industry and forced the Centers for Disease Control to recommend people avoid eating lettuce grown in Yuma, AZ. However, Frank Yiannas, vice president of food safety at Walmart, noted it was difficult for consumers to determine where their lettuce was grown. Moving forward, “a customer could potentially scan a bag of salad and know with certainty where it came from,” he added.
Walmart said it continues to work with IBM and numerous suppliers to enhance food traceability.
“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,” said Charles Redfield, executive vice president of food for Walmart U.S.
IBM is also working with Maersk Line. Earlier this year, the companies said about 100 logistics organizations agreed to participate in TradeLens, a blockchain-enabled joint venture to promote more efficient and secure trade.
In January UPS Inc. announced an equity investment in a blockchain-based startup called Inxeption Corp. Founded in 2017, Inxeption makes an e-commerce platform that ensures secure transactions by applying blockchain technology through product design, manufacturing, and the supply chain.
“Inxeption’s technology is attractive to UPS because it helps unlock new efficiencies for customers using B2B e-commerce platforms,” said Kevin Warren, chief marketing officer of UPS.
Two months later, the companies announced a platform integration called Inxeption Zippy that helps businesses distribute products on multiple online channels from one secure place. The blockchain-backed technology helps ensure sensitive information such as contract-specific pricing and negotiated rates are only shared between the buyer and seller.