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Walmart, IBM and Tsinghua University Explore the Use of Blockchain to Help Bring Safer Food

As Walmart (NYSE: WMT) opened its new Walmart Food Safety Collaboration Center in Beijing today, IBM (NYSE: IBM), Walmart and Tsinghua University announced a collaboration to improve the way food is tracked, transported and sold to consumers across China. By harnessing the power of blockchain technology designed to generate transparency and efficiency in supply chain record-keeping, this work aims to help enhance the safety of food on the tables of Chinese consumers.

Food authentication and supply chain tracking is a critical step to quickly finding and helping address sources of contamination around the world. Early indications are that Blockchain presents an innovative new way to accomplish these goals. It provides a permanent record of transactions which are then grouped in blocks that cannot be altered. It could serve as an alternative to traditional paper tracking and manual inspection systems, which can leave supply chains vulnerable to inaccuracies.

With blockchain, food products can be digitally tracked from an ecosystem of suppliers to store shelves and ultimately to consumers. When applied to the food supply chain, digital product information such as farm origination details, batch numbers, factory and processing data, expiration dates, storage temperatures and shipping detail are digitally connected to food items and the information is entered into the blockchain along every step of the process. Each piece of information provides critical data points that could potentially reveal food safety issues with the product. The information captured in each transaction is agreed upon by all members of the business network; once there is a consensus, it becomes a permanent record that can’t be altered. This helps assure that all information about the item is accurate.

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