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Albertsons to Pilot Blockchain Traceability System for Romaine Lettuce

Retailer joins IBM Food Trust network to enhance supply chain transparency
Photograph courtesy of Albertsons Cos.

Albertsons Cos. is partnering with IBM Food Trust to pilot the network’s blockchain-based traceability solution for enhanced supply chain transparency.

Seeking to overcome the traceback obstacles that have existed during a product recall, the Boise, Idaho-based retailer said it will begin by tracing bulk romaine lettuce from one of its distribution centers and will subsequently explore expanding the solution to other food categories throughout its distribution network.

The retailer, which operates nearly 2,300 stores nationwide, said it is also evaluating ways to use IBM’s blockchain technology to trace back the source of its Own Brands portfolio.

"Multiple high-profile consumer advisories from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration demonstrate the need to find more efficient ways of tracing products and identifying likely sources of contamination in a timely manner," Jerry Noland, VP of food safety and quality assurance for Albertsons, said in a statement. "Consequently, retailers are exploring new technologies to improve the infrastructure that underpins the global food supply chain."

The cloud-based IBM Blockchain Platform is designed to digitize transactions and data to provide participants with immediate access to actionable food supply chain data in a matter of seconds, rather than days or sometimes weeks.

Albertsons joins more than 80 brands in the Food Trust ecosystem employing blockchain technology to improve how food is traced from farm to store shelf. A secured system of record, the network enables participants to share digital, distributed and immutable data so that members across the supply chain can collaborate to trace and authenticate products or optimize supply chain processes. The solution creates a digital record of transactions or interactions ranging from a packaging date to the temperature at which an item was shipped to its arrival on a grocery store shelf.

"Blockchain technology has the potential to be transformational for us as we further build differentiation on our fresh brand," Anuj Dhanda, chief information officer of Albertsons, said in a statement. "Food safety is a very significant step. In addition, the provenance of the products enabled by blockchain—the ability to track every move from the farm to the customer's basket—can be very empowering for our customers."

Following several romaine E. coli outbreaks last year, retailers and suppliers have increasingly been testing blockchain technology to streamline product traceback, which is most effective when the blockchain network includes multiple, diverse members that form a transacting ecosystem. As such, Walmart Inc. last year, in collaboration with IBM, enforced a requirement for its suppliers of leafy green vegetables to input digital, end-to-end traceability event information into the Food Trust network by fall 2019.

"Establishing IBM Food Trust and opening it to the food ecosystem last year was a major milestone in making blockchain real for business," said Raj Rao, general manager of IBM Food Trust. "Today we are focused on ensuring that the solution scales and is accessible to participants across the food ecosystem, such as Albertsons Cos. By bringing more members into the network and enabling them to share greater cross-sections of data in a secured environment, we believe our vision of a transformed food ecosystem using blockchain is closer than ever."

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