IBM blockchain
Walmart,, IBM and Tsinghua Univ. to apply technology for food traceability.
BEIJING – Walmart is among four companies collaborating on a standards-based method of collecting data about the origin, authenticity and safety of food in China.

The retailer, along with IBM, and Tsinghua Univ. National Engineering Laboratory for E-Commerce Technology recently formed the Blockchain Food Safety Alliance. The companies say they will work with food supply chain providers and regulators to develop standards and partnerships necessary to enable a “…broad-based food safety ecosystem.”

Frank Yiannis
Frank Yiannas, vice president, food safety and health, Walmart

“As a global advocate for enhanced food safety, Walmart looks forward to deepening our work with IBM, Tsinghua University, JD and others throughout the food supply chain,” Frank Yiannas, vice president, food safety and health at Walmart, said in a statement. “Through collaboration, standardization, and adoption of new and innovative technologies, we can effectively improve traceability and transparency and help ensure the global food system remains safe for all.”

Walmart implemented two blockchain projects — one in China to track pork, and another in the United States to track mangoes. Recent testing by Walmart showed that blockchain technology reduced the time it took to trace a package of mangoes from the farm to the store from days or weeks to two seconds. Blockchain technology successfully traced food products from suppliers to retail and ultimately to consumers. Farm origination details, batch numbers, factory and processing data, expiration dates and shipping details were digitally connected to food items and entered in the blockchain network at each step of the farm-to-fork process.

Computers in the blockchain, called nodes, contain a copy of a ledger of transactions. At least two nodes must approve a transaction before it is added to the ledger. Blockchain provides users a secure database that is auditable and immutable — transactions can’t be altered.

The initiative will ensure brand owners’ data privacy while helping them integrate online and offline traceability channels for food safety and quality management. Companies that join the alliance will be able to share information using blockchain technology, and plans include them being able to choose the standards-based traceability solution that best suits their needs and legacy systems.

The Blockchain Food Safety Alliance plans to use insights from the collaboration to shed light on how blockchain technology can help improve recalls, verifications and other processes while enhancing consumer confidence in China and around the world.

“Blockchain holds incredible promise in delivering the transparency that is needed to help promote food safety across the whole supply chain. This is a fundamental reason why IBM believes so strongly in the impact this technology will have on business models,” Bridget van Kralingen, senior vice president, IBM Industry Platforms, said in a statement. “By expanding our food safety work with Walmart and Tsinghua Univ. in China and adding new collaborators like, the technology brings traceability and transparency to a broader network of food supply chain participants.”