Food traceability is one of the basic pillars that ensure an increased level of consumer health protection. What role can blockchain and artificial intelligence play in it?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that on October 21, 2019 a public debate will be held, regarding a modern approach to food safety. This meeting should show how important an increased protection of food supply is. Exchange of views and insights will help in shaping the activity plan of the project called "A New Era of Smarter Food Safety". As part of the project, the FDA will also present its strategy. During the meeting, possibilities of tracking sources of contaminated foods will be discussed. The FDA will also analyze new predictive analysis tools such as artificial intelligence and blockchain. All this in order to assess risks and set priorities that the agency should focus on. The FDA's goal is to create a digital, traceable and secure system that will save the consumers from contaminated food. Evolving business models, food safety in retail, prevention tools and traceability will be the main topics of the debate.
One of the initiators of The New Era Of Smarter Food Safety, Frank Yiannas, also known as a food safety expert and a supporter of the digital approach and transparent food system, explained how the new technology can be used to track food supply and prevent its contamination.
"When you look at how other industries are able to track, through digital means, the real-time movement of planes, ride sharing, and packaged goods, we should be looking quickly to adopt and fully implement these new technologies for food."
- claims Yiannas.
The food safety expert also added that this is a simpler, more effective and modern approach to the problem. Leadership and creativity are also important. The FDA wants to support a culture of food safety between the public and private sectors that goes beyond their borders.
"Walt Disney famously said, 'You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality.' That’s how I feel about the work we’re doing. Smarter Food Safety is people-led, FSMA-based and technology-enabled."
- says the expert.
The Achilles' heel of the system
According to Yiannas, even though today's food system is highly developed, it has one weak point - the lack of transparency. Noticing how much it costs is not difficult. Yiannas makes an example of an infection related to the consumption of romaine lettuce that took place in 2018. The outbreak of E. coli O157: H7 contributed to many cases in the United States. As a result, all store shelves equipped with romaine lettuce in the USA were emptied. It was considered as a nationwide food safety crisis because the damage was done not only in the financial form but also in the loss of consumer confidence. This, in turn, shows us the importance of food transparency. According to Yiannas, the implementation of tools that would allow to reach the source of contamination faster would be a big step forward.
"I’ve been chasing the holy grail of digital food traceability solutions for years, and I’ve been unsuccessful in finding it. The emergence of blockchain technology, because of its distributed and decentralized nature that aligns more closely with a decentralized and distributed food system, has enabled food system stakeholders to imagine being able to have full end-to-end traceability. An ability to deliver accurate, real-time information about food, how it’s produced, and how it flows from farm to table is a game-changer for food safety."