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BLOCKCHAIN FOR FOOD SAFETY AND NUTRITION SECURITY

by Oyewole Okewole
Blockchain For Food Safety and Nutrition Security Agritech Digest Article

Decades ago, the transparency of the food supply chain was not so paramount. This is perhaps because blockchain technology was not available at the time. Another reason could be because food safety and nutrition security were not a concern for many consumers. The traditional food supply chain which is grossly characterised with transparency-related problems creates distrust along the chain. It also limits the efficiency of monitoring the the food consumed on our tables.

There is a global growing demand for the consumption of safe and nutritious foods. More customers now seek additional information about the products they consume. Information such as the ingredients used, where food is produced, the processes and activities involved in production, as well as the nutrients composition are sought.

According to Globeswire, the food traceability market size is estimated to be valued at USD 26.1 billion by 2025. In today’s world, it becomes extremely important to fully understand your health status in relation to the body’s nutritional requirements. Blockchain technology has made this ubiquitous consumer behaviour both valid and attainable.

WHAT IS BLOCKCHAIN TECHNOLOGY?

In essence, blockchains are dispersed unaltered databases that can’t be changed. Changes occur only when there’s a unified decision to effect them. This substantially fosters the integrity of data. Blockchains are also improved alternatives for information and data storage. They facilitate fast, secure and direct transactions used to deliver food to those who need it the most. Furthermore, they are used to secure the linkages of all the actors in the food supply chains while increasing sustainability of the entire system.

Blockchain technology is used for food traceability systems in the food supply chains. These systems help to track food, while checking for food safety, food fraud, and food (product) alteration. They identify and map out food product wastes in supply chains. They also decrease the risks associated with food borne illnesses by timely identification. The technology generally helps to overcome the constraints of inaccurate record keeping, lack of data transparency, and slow response times during product recalls. Its utilisation is gaining more adoption globally, as many countries, especially the developed ones are adopting its function and use. For more details about blockchain technology and its general impact in agriculture, kindly read this write up to understand the basics. You can also read this article to learn about its adoption rate.

NUTRITION SECURITY AND FOOD SAFETY

Food security and nutrition security are related but certainly distinct. According to Wageningen University and Research, food security refers to constant access to sufficient, safe and healthy food. This largely depends on food availability, accessibility and affordability both globally and locally, at the level of households and individuals. On the other hand, nutrition security underscores the access to healthy diets that provide all the required nutrients for a healthy life.

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Essentially, nutrition security emphasises the utilisation of nutrients from the food we consume. The inherent nutritional features of the food must meet the required health standards. It further extends to the prevention of sickness and diseases, as well as, provision of the right amount of nutrients for all categories of human demography.

On the other hand, food safety is the prevention of food contamination prior to its release to the consumer. It ensures that all available foods on shelf for sale are safe for potential consumers. To consider a food safe, it must align with the nutritional facts and information displayed on the product. It is also vital that the information must be true, accurate and fully represents what is displayed on the product. No activities through the supply and value chains must compromise the quality and expected properties of the food product.

Blockchain technology integration into the food supply chain also guarantees increased confidence level of customers as it detects any traceability misalignment. It helps to improve the efficiency of food supply chain activities and ultimately increases profitability.

In achieving nutrition security for example, fruits and vegetables are reliable alternatives that provide essential micronutrients required for growth, development, and healthy living. They also play crucial roles in the total well-being of the global population through their medicinal and disease-preventive properties. These crop groups provide the needed nutrients required for the body’s overall functionality.

Sadly, they have short shelf life that also require careful harvest and post-harvest operations to guarantee their optimized nutritional uptake and effectiveness. Fruits and vegetables do not require cumbersome processing/packaging operations like we have in traditional food supply chains. However, in many cases, they are affected the most by the ineffectiveness of the traditional food supply chain. This often results into high percentage of losses and consequently untimely delivery to the people in need of it.

Some of the challenges in the traditional food supply chains grossly affect products in this category and subsequently such products become less fit to deliver the expected nutrient requirements.

IMPACT OF BLOCKCHAIN TECHNOLOGY IN NUTRITION SECURITY AND FOOD SAFETY DYNAMICS

According to Pixelplex, blockchain technology offers four basic features that play a critical role in ensuring global nutrition security and food safety. These were also corroborated by this Agritech Digest article.

1. Traceability

Distinct and clear traceability of all the processes and operations accrued to a food product. For example, if you purchase foods that contain multiple ingredients which emanate from different sources and countries, tracking and tracing every element on a traditional supply chain is nearly impossible. Blockchain Technology will simplify traceability operations enabling companies to track each component. It also helps to identify their authenticity; avoid food fraud and adulteration to get into the supply chains. If there’s any anomaly the system detects immediately and tracks the source of the problem.

2. Transparency and Trust

Blockchain technology builds trust and gives consumers the opportunity to discover the history and origin of the food products. Consumers are interested in knowing the origin, brand legitimacy, and the conditions of the food produced. Blockchain technology helps retailers recall problematic goods on time while consumers receive the information on the food product that can help them make the right selections based on their peculiarities and preferences.

3. Immutability

This is the ability of a blockchain ledger to remain unchanged, intact, and memorable. Blockchain technology allows for data and information that is strictly structured and verified. When the information is recorded on the blockchain, it becomes almost impossible for anyone to alter its content. This prevents corruption in the food supply chain and completely reduces any case of food fraud. According to the Food Safety Net Services, food fraud occurs when customers are intentionally deceived by the food supplier or retailer especially about the quality, content and safety of the food. This is done by misrepresenting, mislabelling, substituting or tampering at any point in the supply chain which is mostly motivated by profit.

4. Efficiency

Blockchain technology helps food supply chain actors record transactions in real time. It also facilitates the timely and up-to-date information on supply and demand to other participants in the supply chain. Furthermore, it ensures accurate and efficient cargo tracking. Traditional supply chains require about 7 days to trace contaminated foods to their source but blockchain technology accomplishes this in about 2.2 seconds according to Pixelplex.

CONCLUSION

Blockchain technology is revolutionizing the food industry by enhancing both food safety and nutrition security. Through its decentralized and transparent nature, blockchain ensures that food supply chains are traceable from farm to fork, reducing the risk of contamination and fraud. Overall, the adoption of blockchain technology holds the potential to significantly improve food safety standards and enhance access to nutritious food worldwide.

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