Can Blockchain Help Prevent a Romaine Lettuce Foodborne Illness Outbreak

Where Is Blockchain When it is Needed? Another Romaine Lettuce Illness Outbreak Just Appeared

Blockchain technology has the power to solve many of the challenges that different industries are now facing. And distributed ledger technology (DLT) can also play a key role dealing with food contamination and intoxication.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) issued a public health alert related to contamination of romaine lettuce with a parasite known as Cyclospora. There are more than 163 people in 10 states that were affected by this parasite the last month. Blockchain technology can solve the problem, will it finally be implemented?

The FSIS is very worried about contamination with the parasite mentioned before, cyclospora, in romaine lettuce. At the same time, on July the 31st, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), warned with an emergency outbreak announcement that they were investigating a multistate outbreak of Cyclospora illnesses.

This situation shows how efficient the current systems are and how dangerous that could be to the population. At the moment, there is still no way to track the source of where the romaine lettuce came from.

In order to stop this problem, retailers have to throw out all the romaine lettuce products they are now offering on their stores. Some of the infected individuals were traced to McDonald’s restaurants in different states. The famous fast food chain has been talking with its clients and informing the situation at all times. Apparently, the number of restaurants potentially infected reaches 3,000.

All these restaurants will have to remove all the food products that have not been confirmed to be contaminated. Due to the fact that there is no efficient method to track the shipments, it is necessary to take such a drastic measure.

How Could Have Blockchain Helped?

Frank Yiannas, VP of Food Safety for Walmart wrote:

“Another romaine outbreak, this time with a parasite, Cyclospora. Once again, we DO NOT know where the romaine lettuce was grown or came from. One step up & one step back traceability is outdated. We need real-time, end-to-end #blockchain traceability NOW.”

And indeed, there are other important companies such as JD.com, that are using blockchain technology to track the supply chain of its meat sales. The system allows customers to track the meat they buy from the farm where the food was produced until it reaches their freezers.

The Chief Technology officer at JD, Chen Zhang, said about this:

“Consumers in China do not just want quality imported products, they want to know that they can trust how and where their food is sourced, and blockchain helps us deliver this peace of mind.”

Mr. Yiannas has also been an important supporter of DLT to improve the food supply chain. It is important to mention that a food supply chain tracking system has been developed with IBM for Walmart. WIth it, it was possible to reduce the time it takes to track the source of a specific product from 6 days to over 3 seconds.

In the future more and more enterprises could start implementing different blockchain-related solutions to improve the lives of thousands of individuals around the world.

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