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China’s Serious Food Quality Issues, Can Blockchain be the Solution?

China’s Serious Food Quality Issues, Can Blockchain be the Solution?

China’s Serious Food Quality Issues, Can Blockchain be the Solution?

​China’s major retail, food distribution and e-commerce companies including JD.com, the country’s second largest e-commerce platform, have been utilizing blockchain technology to trace the origins of foods and allow consumers to accurately evaluate the quality of food they are purchasing.

Blockchain technology integrated by leading blockchain-based networks including bitcoin and Ethereum has proven to be useful and applicable in situations where data verification is crucial. Blockchain networks utilize cryptographic evidence, timestamps and real-time data processing in order to provide an unalterable ledger capable of recording data in real-time.

According to Quartz, JD.com has been collaborating with Mongolia-based beef distributor Kerchin to supply beef to Chinese consumers. Through a blockchain-based system, the entire process of distribution and supply is recorded onto an immutable ledger, which is transparent and decentralized. Anyone within the JD.com network including its consumers are able to access data stored by JD.com and Kerchin through their blockchain systems.

For years, food scandal drastically impacted the food industry in China. In 2014, McDonald's, Burger King, Papa John’s and Yum Brands in China were targeted by harsh criticisms after their meat supplier, Shanghai Husi Food, was exposed for processing contaminated meat and expired meat products. The scandal led to a full investigation from the Shanghai Municipal Food and Drug Administration, which later reported that 3,000 cases of contaminated beef were already sold.

JD.com spokesman Josh Gartner emphasized that with a blockchain-based system in place, scandals like the Shanghai Husi Food contaminated meat incident can’t occur because the process of meat distribution is recorded onto a blockchain ledger. Gartner emphasized that blockchain technology has allowed the firm to ensure the authenticity of all product information, as information on a blockchain system cannot be falsified.

Through JD, a Quartz journalist ordered a piece of steak through JD. A QR code shown on the packaging of the meat led to a blockchain system wherein Echo Huang was able to receive detailed information in regard to the origin of the meat and the process of distribution.

“To understand the process, I ordered an eye-round steak, a cut from above the cow’s rear-leg region, from JD on the afternoon of July 14 in Guangzhou. After the cow was slaughtered, its meat was then subject to a number of tests to detect bacteria, water content, and animal-growth promoters. At this point, my steak was declared free of ractopamine, a drug banned in China that’s used to bulk up animals (paywall) weeks before they are slaughtered,” wrote Huang.

One key component of a blockchain system distributors and service providers such as JD.com should take into careful consideration is the technical intricacies of the blockchain network in use. For instance, the meat distribution platform of JD requires the integration of large amounts of information and hence, the smart contract-based Ethereum blockchain will be a more practical blockchain network for the use case.

In contrary, the bitcoin blockchain, which prioritizes security over flexibility, can be used for data verification if the size of data is relatively smaller.

Author : Joseph Young

Joseph Young is a finance and tech journalist based in Hong Kong. He has worked with leading media and news agencies in the technology and finance industries, offering exclusive content, interviews, insights and analysis of cryptocurrencies, innovative and futuristic technologies.

Blockchain blockchain technology China Ethereum Blockchain