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Albertsons Companies, one of the largest food and drug retailers in the U.S., is joining the blockchain-based IBM Food Trust network to help keep track of items in the food supply chain such as romaine lettuce.

That’s important, as tainted romaine hospitalized dozens of Americans in late 2018. With the transparent decentralized ledger technology of blockchain, IBM will be able to more precisely track where food originates and goes, from farm to store shelf.

The addition of Albertsons Companies to the IBM Food Trust network brings more than 50 brands across the food ecosystem to blockchain-based food traceability. It will help enable greater transparency and collaboration, and ultimately, a safer food supply chain, the companies said.

Blockchain is a system of record that can be used to trace and authenticate objects as they move through the supply chain. It creates a digital record of every transaction or interaction – from a packaging date to the temperature at which an item was shipped, to its arrival on a grocery store shelf.

This increased transparency can address a broad range of food quality issues, from food safety to freshness, to verifying certifications such as organic or fair trade, to waste reduction, sustainability, and more.

The technology is being used to make the end-to-end food ecosystem more transparent and trustworthy. It has the potential to transform broad, nationwide food recalls into efficient, precise eliminations of recalled products. Already, more than five million food products have been traced on the solution.

Albertsons Companies, which operates nearly 2,300 stores across the U.S., will begin piloting IBM Food Trust for tracing bulk romaine lettuce from one of its distribution centers, then explore expanding to other food categories throughout its distribution network.

Above: How blockchain tracking works.

Image Credit: IBM

“Blockchain technology has the potential to be transformational for us as we further build differentiation on our fresh brand,” said Anuj Dhanda, chief information officer of Albertsons Companies, in a statement. “Food safety is a very significant step, though the provenance of the products enabled by blockchain, the ability to track every move from the farm to the customer’s basket, can be very empowering for our customers.”

Albertsons Companies plans to pilot IBM Food Trust to help overcome the existing obstacles to a traceback for a product like romaine and is investigating ways to use the technology to help ensure the provenance of its extensive Own Brands portfolio.

A blockchain network is strongest when it includes multiple, diverse members that form a transacting ecosystem. That is why IBM Food Trust allows companies from across the food ecosystem to join and share data. Already, some IBM Food Trust members either recommend or mandate that their supply chain partners, such as downstream suppliers, join the network. This is intended to bring a more complete view of the entire lifecycle of a food product.

“Since first introducing IBM Food Trust, we have met a number of milestones that show the path toward transforming the end-to-end food system,” said Raj Rao, general manager of IBM Food Trust, in a statement. “Today, we are further scaling the network to bring blockchain-based traceability to an even wider cross-section of retailers, suppliers and end consumers. By working with the top retailers all over the world, IBM Food Trust is truly helping to provide a safer and more transparent food system for all.”

IBM Food Trust allows companies to onboard via a variety of options, including offering guided onboarding to help brands customize their solutions and involving IBM Services for consulting expertise. Once onboarded, members have access to application programming interfaces (APIs) and developer tutorials, which are openly available online through IBM DeveloperWorks to ease integrations with third-party technologies, enterprise systems, and other data sources.

IBM Food Trust is one of the largest and most active non-crypto blockchain networks today. It is available as a subscription service for members of the food ecosystem.

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