This initial project marks the first time that blockchain technology has been used as a regulatory tool to ensure compliance in the UK food sector. Sian Thomas, FSA head of information management said:
“Our approach has been to develop data standards with industry that will make theory reality and I’m delighted that we’ve been able to show that blockchain does indeed work in this part of the food industry.”
Experiencing major food fraud and hygiene issues, such as the 2013 horse meat scandal and the more recent 2017 chicken scandal, that effected almost all supermarket chains in the UK, highlighted the need for traceablity within the food supply chain.
Meanwhile, the world’s meat production in 2017 was recorded to be double of what it was in 1986. With meat consumption at an all time high, the industry is primed for the streamlined management that blockchain technology can offer.
Following a study in 2017 that looked into how blockchain technology can be adopted for greater sustainability in the meat industry, the FSA established a Food and Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) collaborative group in the same year.
The aim is to develop a platform that will allow ‘permissioned’ management of the data by all parties within the chain, including the farmer and slaughterhouse, which will also be accessible to the FSA. Thomas also noted that:
“We thought that blockchain technology might add real value to a part of the food industry, such as a slaughterhouse, whose work requires a lot of inspection and collation of results.”
The next step of the pilot, scheduled for July, will include letting farmers record data about individual animals onto the blockchain. If it all runs smoothly, the system will be adopted by more facilities.
Currently, data is limited to that which is collected for inspection and their results, therefore the ledger needs to benefit all parties of the chain, as use of blockchain technology will be industry-led. FSA’s Sian Thomas, said:
“I think there are great opportunities now for industry and government to work together to expand and develop this approach.”
The FSA have committed to work with DLT experts from government, food sector, technology industry and academia on the use of blockchain, including regulatory compliance of food.