Amid soaring egg prices and growing food shortages, a trip to the grocery is already costing U.S. citizens dearly, but consumer concerns don’t end there.
For years, food adulteration has been increasing financial and health risks around the world in the form of harmful fillers, counterfeit foods, misleading labels and secret substitutions. And consumers aren’t the only ones at risk. Companies unknowingly selling products that have been illegally tampered with are subject to recalls, lawsuits, and bad publicity – all of which threaten brand loyalty and consumer trust.
Calls for greater supply chain transparency have highlighted the fact that current efforts alone are not enough to put consumers at ease. What the global supply chain needs is a standardized system that offers full life cycle-traceability for any product. One that can only be built on a scalable blockchain.
Uncertainty: The root cause of supply chain concern
According to a 2022 study by the International Food Information Council, only 24% of U.S. consumers report being “very confident” in the safety of the U.S. food supply, with 34% citing additives and ingredients as a top concern. And it’s no surprise.
Though experts have found that food fraud affects 1% of the global food industry at a cost of about $10-$40 billion a year, even the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) can’t accurately estimate the frequency or economic impact of food fraud.
This is because there is no standardized system in place to track raw materials through the food supply chain from seed to sale. As a result, the general public is given the impossible task of trying to be an informed consumer while lacking access to the information they need to make the best choices.
Transparency: The leading source of consumer trust
It’s not all bad news though as traceability has emerged as a powerful antidote to food fraud.
By providing increased transparency into the origin of raw materials, the step-by-step process of production, and the key players in the logistics and distribution phase, robust traceability systems boost supply chain security and put companies on the offense.
Many major brands are already taking steps toward improving traceability practices, by implementing programs to work with suppliers to identify potential risks, manage quality control and ensure authenticity. Such initiatives make it possible to go to a company website and get a glimpse into their sustainable and responsible product sourcing, but what happens next?
Partial solutions: Why current efforts continue to fall short
Despite improved sourcing practices and regulatory measures, current efforts only solve one piece of the puzzle.
Raw materials are vulnerable to food adulteration at every step of the supply chain. From exposure to allergens and bacteria at processing plants to omissions from ingredient lists and nutrition facts, harmful fillers and toxins can ruin products that were sourced with the best intentions. Even the most conscientious consumers can’t protect themselves against illness or allergic reactions if ingredients don’t make their way onto the label.
Unfortunately, tracing an individual product from seed to sale generates a volume of data that existing systems can’t accommodate, and we’re left with incomplete or fragmented traceability at best.
That’s why leveraging blockchain technology is key to bringing the fight to the food fraud industry.
Scalability: The missing piece of the traceability puzzle
Blockchain scalability enables an unmatched volume of data transactions to be processed both quickly and securely, making it possible to effectively track products from source to point of sale.
For example, traceability systems start collecting data from seed origin, including quality, sustainable growing practices and harvest date and time. Then, those raw materials are followed to the processing plant and monitored for quality assurance and resource consumption practices.
From there, the products can be tracked through distribution where transport conditions are closely documented and stored. When the product arrives at the retailer, Sustainability, provenance, quality and brand information are readily available. Retailers can then add additional information about product storage temperatures, handling, energy consumption and waste.
By the time it reaches the consumer, every single product item is equipped with detailed, verified information about its composition, quality, provenance, sustainability and brand. But it doesn’t end there. To complete the product life cycle, information about recycling, waste management, and reuse can be stored in smart blockchain applications making full life cycle-traceability, life cycle-management and sustainable reuse of resources and materials a reality.
Full-cycle trust: Why it matters
Traceability systems built on a scalable blockchain cohesively streamline existing practices and enhance transparency through advanced data capture devices and easy-to-use technology. A process that makes it possible for a consumer to pick up a product and within minutes know and trust that the item in their hand was ethically sourced, processed without cross-contamination and accurately labeled.
From an app on a farmer’s smartphone to data from a production plant, monitoring systems blockchain powered traceability gives users the power to track food and beverage products through the supply chain the same way they track a package that’s out for delivery or a rideshare driver on route.
This level of data collection allows all supply chain participants to prove points of value like quality, content, origin, sustainability and fair trade. And it’s all thanks to an emerging industry.
Advancements in blockchain technology will only continue to evolve. Today, we can give consumers control over their health and finances. What’s possible tomorrow depends on our willingness to put our trust in a trustless system.