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Walmart, Sam’s Club tell suppliers to get on blockchain network

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Issuing time:2018-09-30 10:36

Walmart and Sam's Club are calling on suppliers of leafy green vegetables to upload their produce data to a corporate blockchain ledger within a year to enable end-to-end traceability of vegetables back to the farm where they were grown.

"This has literally gone out to dozens and dozens of suppliers. If you think about this food system, our suppliers will source from other suppliers and farms," said Frank Yiannas, Walmart's vice president in charge of food safety. "We believe this will impact hundreds of food establishments."

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Last year, Walmart and Sam's Club joined nine of the world's largest food retailers in piloting IBM's Food Trust Solution, a blockchain distributed ledger network based on the Hyperledger protocol. Along with Walmart, the testring consortium includes Dole, Driscoll's, Golden State Foods, Kroger, McCormick and Company, McLane Company, Nestlé, Tyson Foods, and Unilever.

Earlier this year, Walmart completed two pilots of the distributed ledger technology using suppliers of mangoes and pork; after a proof-of-concept, the food-tracking blockchain network is now in production. As of this week, Walmart already has 25 products (or SKUs) from 10 supplier companies on the permissioned blockchain. The products range from poultry and berries to yogurt.

Walmart's pilots have shown the amount of time it takes for the company to trace a food item from store to farm was reduced from seven days to just 2.2 seconds.

Being able to trace the origins of food will help Walmart be more proactive in tracking down food-borne illnesses when they occur to prevent the spread of tainted produce, perform a root analysis of what went wrong, as well as to ensure safety checks are being conducted along the supply chain, Yianas said.

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Every year, one-in-10 people fall ill – and 400,000 die – due to contaminated food.

Earlier this year, for example, 210 people from 36 states became ill – and five died – from an E coli bacteria outbreak traced to romaine lettuce. Because the origin of the lettuce could not immediately be ascertained, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a warning for consumers to avoid all types of romaine lettuce; hundreds of stores threw out millions of dollars worth of produce. It was weeks before the tainted lettuce was eventually traced back to Yuma, Ariz.


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