Major names in the global food industry are collaborating with IBM to harness blockchain technologies in a bid to boost product safety.

WalmartNestlé and Unilever are three of the household names involved in the venture, which will use the distributed ledger system to better monitor how food is progressing along the supply chain.

Food contamination causes 400,00 deaths annually, according to the World Health Organisation. Difficulty in tracing the origin of a scare slows down the ability to deal with it. Labelled the gatekeeper in the emerging trust economy, blockchain can change this by providing transparency and secure transactions. It offers those granted secure access the ability to pinpoint the origins of a particular problem and remove a contaminated product.

“As an advocate for greater transparency in the food system to benefit customers, Walmart looks forward to expanding on our initial work by collaborating with others to accelerate exploration on how this technology can be used as a more effective food traceability and food safety tool. Blockchain technology enables a new era of end-to-end transparency in the global food system – equivalent to shining a light on food ecosystem participants that will further promote responsible actions and behaviors. It also allows all participants to share information rapidly and with confidence across a strong trusted network. This is critical to ensuring that the global food system remains safe for all,” said Frank Yiannas, vice president, food safety, Walmart.