French supermarket chain Carrefour recently introduced blockchain technology into a data system allowing shoppers in Auvergne, Southern France, to get a full detailed history of their purchase: a chicken.

Carrefour’s system provides customers with a blockchain-based traceability program, currently limited to some poultry in the chain’s Auvergne stores. The system offers a record of the chickens’ life from egg to supermarket. Shoppers can use a smartphone to scan in a code on the packaging to obtain details on each stage of production, including origins, earlier location, feed and where the meat was finally processed.

Carrefour originally chose the new technology in order to trace production of chickens, but now plans to extend the data sharing program to include products such as eggs, cheese, milk, oranges, tomatoes, salmon and hamburgers by the end of the year.

The supermarket chain, which was once the world’s second-biggest retailer after US group Walmart, has said that it believes that blockchain tech applications for the food chain are effective as they allow for secure sharing between producer and consumer.

Walmart itself currently shares a blockchain platform with Nestle, Dole Food, Tyson Foods, Kroger and Company vice-president for food safety and health, Frank Yiannas, shares Carrefour’s enthusiasm, saying that “there’s no question about it, blockchain will do for traceability what the internet did for communication”.

Yiannas claims that the new technology will considerably cut down on foodborne diseases, benefiting the economy about USD 700 million through increased productivity, thanks to fewer work days lost to sickness.

Many consumers are unaware of where their food comes from and how it’s produced. New innovators argue that blockchain provides that visibility.

Lance Koonce, partner for Davis Wright Tremaine LLP and head of the firm’s cross-practice blockchain initiative, argues that currently, the window remains open for fraud and food safety breaches, issues which would be addressed under blockchain labeling. He suggests that companies want the ability to “tell stories to their customers about honest products and provide accurate labeling”.

Carrefour announced in January a major overhaul of its business given increased competition from traditional rivals as well as online retailers.


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