FDA releases study on using blockchain for food security

The US government agency is analysing the impact of blockchain in empowering food security and the supply chain

Image of man carrying grocery shopping
The need to know about the source and method behind the food available to citizens has been enhanced due to the coronavirus pandemic

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently released a study entitled New Era for Smarter Food Safety Blueprint: Modern Approaches for Modern Times.

This study was released earlier this week and examines some of the biggest challenges on food distribution throughout the country, as well as how smart technologies could help solve them.

“Many believe we will see more changes in the food system over the next 10 years than we have over the past several decades. Foods are being reformulated, new foods and new food production methods are being realized, and the food system is becoming increasingly digitized. At the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), we believe modern times require modern approaches,” the executive summary begins.

The technologies covered in the study include the Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain, artificial intelligence and sensor technologies. They are analysed in terms of their capacity to provide in four different ways: tech-enabled traceability, retail modernisation, prevention and outbreak response and food safety culture.

Blockchain was highlighted for its capacity to handle “critical tracking events and key data elements from industry and regulatory partners”.

The FDA has been discussing the potential of using blockchain technology in their daily operations for the last two years. In June, Food and Drugs Commissioner Stephen Hahn and Response Deputy Commissioner Frank Yiannas observed that the coronavirus dealt a heavy blow to the food supply chain sector, and highlighted the capacity for blockchain to track and trace food products as they move from one part of the supply chain to another.

The IVM is working on enabling the use of blockchain technologies to the agriculture and shipping industry with the FoodTrust program that they launched, together with Walmart. The IBM Food Trust caters to many of the biggest retail giants in the US and uses blockchain to record information on food products, as well as display certification. Their efforts will help companies navigate choke points, such as certification storage and product recalls more effectively.

Companies such as Norway’s Kvaroy Arctic rely on IBM to empower traceability, as well as the freshness rating of sustainable farmed salmon from Norway. This practise helps the country leverage their own products from other exporters, avoid origin fraud, and cut down on waste.

“This crisis has highlighted some challenges and has underscored the need for modern approaches as we respond to unique demands on our food system and work to ensure that the food supply remains safe and strong, now more than ever.” the report explains.