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Nestle, Unilever join IBM to help track food supply chains, improve safety

A total of 10 companies will share data, run trials with IBM

Reuters  |  Chicago/New York 

Nestle, Unilever join IBM to help track food supply chains, improve safety

SA, Plc, Tyson Foods Inc and other large and have joined IBM's project to explore how technology can help track supply chains and improve safety, the said in a joint statement on Tuesday.

Blockchain, which first emerged as the system underpinning cryptocurrency bitcoin, is a shared record of data maintained by a network of computers, rather than a trusted third party.

A total of 10 said they will share data and run trials with IBM, including Kroger Co, Dole Company Inc, McCormick & Company Inc, Golden State Foods Corp, Driscoll's Inc and Berkshire Hathaway's McLane Co.

also is participating and has worked with since October to track the movement of products.

"It is not just about building the technology, it is about building the ecosystem," Brigid McDermott, vice president for business development at IBM, said.

Wal-Mart said in June that trials had helped it narrow the time it took to trace the movement of mangoes to 2.2 seconds from about seven days.

A single recall could cost anything from tens of thousands to millions of dollars in lost sales, Wal-Mart's head of safety, Frank Yiannas, told Reuters last month.

Skeptics have warned that the technology is still in its early days and it may take years before reap benefits. also are fiercely competitive and have a poor track record for collaboration, notably the demise of mobile payment app CurrentC, another highly anticipated industry venture.

"Yes, the industry is cautious because this could be the next best thing since sliced bread but you wouldn't say everything was fine and dandy after a trial you had with just two suppliers," Kroger's head of safety Howard Popoola told Reuters.

"The key right now is to involve suppliers and and see how well we can share data to oil the machine," he said. "This is an opportunity for us to speak with one voice and say to the world that safety is not going to be a competitive issue."

also said it was launching a platform that could make it easier for large to develop applications using the technology.

Because can quickly trace the hundreds of parties involved in the mass production and distribution of food, it is expected to make it easier to identify the source of potential contamination during safety scares.

First Published: Tue, August 22 2017. 19:53 IST