Why Blockchain Will Be Used to Improve Distribution Food Safety, Quality, and Traceability


By John Ryan, Ph.D., Food Safety Magazine

February 5, 2019


With the passage of the Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA) comes the final rules on the Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Foods. Combined with the FSMA Preventive Control rules designed to establish food safety requirements throughout the food supply chain, serious documentation challenges face the food logistics sector.


Food distribution is increasingly complex. Given the types of food safety hazards depicted as global food hazards over the past 10 years (Figure 1), food shippers, carriers, and receivers have been placed in the food safety bull’s eye. Food safety supply chain controls, preventive controls, and transportation rules provide a focus that leaves logistics in an unenviable position. No company will escape blame due to the range of shared liability established by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rules.


In short, vicarious liability is reversed and passed from carrier to receiver or from supplier to carrier because the “customer” is now clearly responsible for the supplier’s ability to control food safety issues. Under the rules, the “customer” in any case must qualify and certify the supplier’s ability to control food safety under the rules.


The FSMA transportation rules require the supplier and carrier to establish a signed written agreement regarding who is responsible for sanitation and temperature monitoring and for the collection of all data. This mandatory food safety documentation will be used to help establish liability in the event of a recall.


The concept is illustrated by Figure 2.


The farm is seen to distribute pesticides, chemicals, and microbes in the water, soil, and produce. Carriers move the product from the farm to distribution centers, restaurants, and retail outlets, usually within traceability and temperature-monitoring guidelines. Traceability and temperature-monitoring data are combined with the food safety data collected by the farm to form documentation that establishes the degree of preventive control established by the system.


The potential for complexity is illustrated in Figure 3. There are 17 different hand-offs between the time the product is harvested and placed in bins, and received at the store. With pallets being broken down at distributors, case- or item-level traceability becomes necessary, and the financial trail blurs.


Provenance as a product of chain of custody disappears into the mist. What happened or did not happen during food safety throughout these operations is now unknown, making all players responsible.


Think Networks, Think Provenance ...


Think Traceability, Think Chain of Custody ...


Building a Blockchain-Integrated Food Safety System ...


Summary ...


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