Food fraud in China – KFC is the answer?

39 year old Shen Yicheng, a former computer salesman, now a farmer that are growing food the ecological way, which is a rare thing among farmers around the outskirts of Shanghai. He produces products without pesticides. He wanted to be self-sufficient, but now friends and family want to buy his carrots and watermelons. The reason? Chinese food products are filled with toxic chemicals or otherwise harmful to their personel health.

Even though there is Chinese food products with eco labels, there is massive lack of confidence in that labelling due to several incidents with food fraud (and because the labels can easily be bought on Taobao). The list is long and horrifying: rats sold as lamb, cooking oil fished up from the sewage and poured in new bottles, poisoned milk powder, decades old so-called zombie meat and an almost impressive selection of fake products, including everything from eggs and rice to prawns. Scams, corruption and unscrupulous profit hunting are a major part of the problem.

Food fraud in China

In annual interviews with 5000 citizens from different cities, the concern of food safety is top one or two every year, the last ten years. They are terrified to get sick or die of what may be a part of their diet. Everybody knows that the food supply chain in China is a huge mess. This is one of the reasons why people eat at KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken). Crazy as it may sound, people eat there because it’s healthy (and safe). People trust KFC, because of hygiene control and the chicken is not fake.

China is ready for a food innovation revolution. One of the tools could be a implementation of new technology, where blockchain can be a way forward, to reduce the risk of food fraud along the supply chainBlockchain is just one tool in the belt, where vertical farming or lab grown meat also can be a path forward. 

The people of China are ready for it, so they can live with the peace of mind, that the food they eat are safe and sound.

References:

http://classic.samvirke.dk/magasin-artikel/1373000000-munde-maette

Consumers find transparency in food important

Transparency has been one of the biggest buzzwords in the food business. It has driven product reformulations, moved producers to utilize more sustainable practices. It is now no more an option, it’s a requirement. The survey by Response Media underscores its importance as producers, manufacturers and retailers move forward with greater transparency of their products. The survey was carried out Q1 this year with 500 US respondents and mixed gender demographics.

The findings

Consumers place a significant value of importance on the source of ingredients; the manufacturing, handling, and shipping of the product; and the sustainability, charitable, and labor policies of a brand.

Consumers primarily want it before and during purchase. So an easy-to-use QR code or NFC tag, combined with the consumers smartphone could do the trick.

So their recommendation is that companies that can deliver content during all stages will secure a stronger level of trust and differentiate themselves from competition.

So, brands must consciously develop and communicate meaningful transparency content to consumers when and where they want it. This transparency have to be founded on a trusted process, or else it is just airy-fairy. This could be a supply chain blockchain tech and RFID process, to ensure the greater transparency and traceability. So there is no need to wait, the first that brings transparency to the food we eat, is going to have a great advantage when people have to chose between products in the supermarket.

© 2018 Kristoffer Just Petersen

References

http://www.fooddive.com/news/grocery–study-nearly-all-consumers-find-transparency-in-food-and-beverage-important/446999/?mc_cid=a1edfc77cc&mc_eid=35fb007d92

Response Media – 2017 Transparency Study

Interview – Tom Mueller – Author of Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO). It might not be a food product that you buy everyday, but when you buy it, it is quite expensive so you want to “the real deal”. But, far from every EVOO product on the shelf at the supermarket is actually a EVOO. Meaning, that some are of lesser quality (low-grade oils), not from the country of labelling (olives from greece, but the label says Italy) and so forth.

I used EVOO as an example in my thesis on how a new technology, blockchain, could reestablish trust, transparency and traceability in the supply chain of EVOO. And that is highly needed, especially if you (if your Danish), saw Kontant on DR last night, where they investigated Danish distributors and a Italian producer. So in relation to that, I have interviewed Tom Mueller, who has extensive knowledge about EVOO and the fraud that happens before the products are on the shelfs. So without further ado:

Can you start with telling us a little bit about yourself?

I’m Tom Mueller. I am a free-lance writer of non-fiction and fiction. I was educated at Oxford (DPhil, Rhodes Scholar), Harvard (BA, summa cum laude), and Alief Hastings High School in rural east Texas, home of the Fighting Bears. I’ve lived or worked in 48 countries.

My first book, Extra Virginity, is a New York Times best-selling account of olive oil culture, history, and crime. My articles have appeared in the New YorkerNational Geographic MagazineNew York Times Magazine and Atlantic Monthly.

What work have you done in relation to EVOO?

Truth about EVOO was born out of my love of great olive oil, and my concern about low-grade oils being passed off as “extra virgin” in the industry today, worldwide.  As a freelance writer who for the last two decades has spent much time in and around the Mediterranean, while contributing to publications including the New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, National Geographic, and New York Times Magazine, I felt I knew olive oil well.  But it took an assignment for the New Yorker in 2007, “Slippery Business,” to make me understand the remarkable complexity of the olive oil trade, and the immense value of olive oil itself.  Since then I’ve gone steadily deeper into oil; in 2012 I published Extra Virginity, a book that explores this great foodstuff from many angles – cultural, culinary, chemical, criminal – and introduces the artisan producers and age-old landscapes of fine olive oil.

Why does fraud happen along EVOO’s supply chain?

The fraudulent behavior comes from everywhere – from misrepresenting amounts of olives brought to the mill, to various games that are played in the milling process, to blending of higher-grade extra virgin olive oil with low-grade olive oil or with other cheaper vegetable oils, to mislabeling . . .  The list is endless, as is the ingenuity of the fraudsters.

Why is it important for, us as a consumer, to have knowledge about this fraudulent behavior?

First, to ensure you are eating a healthy, tasty and genuine product, whose origin you know. Second, to make sure that honest producers get a fair price for their product – or find a market at all (they are often excluded by low-priced, fraudulent oils). Third, that you aren’t supporting fraudsters when you buy a bottle of oil.

From your knowledge, what can be done to increase traceability and transparency of EVOO products?

It is crucial to do on-site inspections and tests of mills, refineries and storage facilities, especially in ports.  So many checks are on paperwork only, not chemical testing of oils. The chemical and sensory parameters of the extra virgin grade also have to be improved (tightened) – they are currently very loose. Labels should specify the exact geographic location where olives were grown and milled, and the exact name of the producers – too often the “brand” is simply a multinational that buys and blends other peoples’ oils.

Further on that note, do you think tech can help with increasing traceability and transparency of EVOO products? And how?

Steady scientific advances in infra-red, DNA and other testing of olive oil have appeared. These need to be incorporated, rapidly, into current legislation.

What are your tips and tricks to spot that the EVOO you buy, is in fact what it is?

That is very hard to state, because there are many factors that comes into play. But I have outlined some points below, and if you want more thorough tips and tricks go to my website here.

  • Olives are stone fruits, like cherries and plums.  So real EVOO is fresh-squeezed fruit juice – seasonal, perishable, and never better than the first few weeks it was made.
  • Bitterness and pungency are usually indicators of an oil’s healthfulness. Sweetness and butteriness are often not.
  • There are 700+ different kinds of olives, which make thousands of different kinds of oil. Asking “what’s the best olive oil?” is like asking “what’s the best wine?”  The answer is, “depends on what you’re eating it with.”
  • Know the when, who, where of your oil: When it was made (harvest date), who made it (specific producer name), and exactly where on the planet they made it.

A big thank you to Tom, for his insights on this widely loved product across the globe, and why we need to keep pushing for better traceability and transparency of food products, in general.

If you want to read or know about my work on creating better traceability and transparency with tech, read this post, where I state the current supply chain process of EVOO, and how blockchain can shift the supply chain towards more transparency of the food we eat, and how farmers, producers, retailers etc, can get better traceability.

Have a great day!

© 2018 Kristoffer Just Petersen

Food Fraud: What’s really in your food?

Food fraud is the act of purposely altering, misrepresenting, mislabeling, substituting or tampering with any food product at any point along the farm–to–table food supply–chain. Fraud can occur in the raw material, in an ingredient, in the final product or in the food’s packaging.

Food fraud is the deception of consumers through intentional adulteration of food:

  • by substituting one product for another
  • using unapproved enhancements or additives
  • misrepresenting something (e.g., country of origin)
  • misbranding or counterfeiting
  • stolen food shipments and/or
  • intentional contamination with a variety of chemicals, biological agents or other substances harmful to private– or public–health.

So when there is talk about food fraud, that can entail many different aspects, but the most ghastly is the intentional contamination with our food. Just within the last 15 years, there has been many issues with food fraud:

  • China (2008) melamine in baby food; (2015) ‘zombie’ frozen meat
  • Russia (2015) palm oil in milk
  • Italy (2011) illegal organic produce; (2014) hydrogen peroxide on seafood
  • England (2013) beef burgers containing pork and horsemeat
  • Australia (2013) free–range eggs from caged hens
  • Mexico (2005–present) meat from undeclared species
  • USA (2009–present) Salmonella in peanuts, honey–laundering, meat from undeclared species

While many of the cases that arise from from investigations usually are harmless, some food–fraud incidents have resulted in serious public health consequences. This do illustrate vulnerabilities in the current regulatory and quality assurance systems.

That is why knowing the source and history of the food we eat is all important. Fraudsters are able to perpetuate their crimes through vulnerabilities in the current food supply chains. End-to-end traceability and supply chain transparency are critical management tools for food brand owners, farmers, etc. Track-and-trace combined with market monitoring and testing, are key tactics for proactively mitigating food fraud risks.

So even though consumers are doing hard work to seek out foods that will promote their health, by buying food that are a mean to a healthy life, they are fighting a losing battle.

References

http://foodfraud.msu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/food-fraud-ffg-backgrounder-v11-Final.pdf

http://bit.ly/2zj0jQF

www.fsns.com/news/what-is-food-fraud

Fish is good for you(?) – Lack of transparency of mercury levels

Eat fish at least 2 times a week! That is what the Danish Ministry of Environment and Food say, that fish is the main course several times a week. It is important to eat different fish species of both fatty and lean fish. In total, you should eat 350 grams of fish per week, of which about 200 grams should preferably be fatty fish.

But it comes with a catch. Mercury! As illustrated below, mercury is a natural part of the food chain, but coal-fired power plants are the No. 1 culprit when it comes to adding mercury to our environment, that ends up in the fish that you eat.

Fish that are contaminated with mercury, can lead to very serious diseases. Fish in Danish waters have such high levels of mercury that researchers in all of the samples in 2015. In some cases, the level of mercury was up to 13 times higher than the limit value, according to a report published by DCE (Danish Centre For Environment And Energy). However, it is worth noting that the content in 98 percent of the cases does not exceed the limit value of the food for humans. But pregnant women and children is to avoid fish due to mercury contamination. As the consumption of mercury in the quantities can impair immune response and cause neurological damage leading to loss of coordination, vision, hearing and can produce mental retardation, especially in the young.

If we travel across the globe to Japan, dolphin and whale meat is a common source of food. Here tests conducted by BlueVoice.org on residents of the village of Taiji, Japan revealed that people who eat dolphin meat exhibit extremely high levels of mercury and other heavy metals. The Japanese Health Ministry advised level of mercury in humans is 0.4ppm. The highest level in their tests revealed a mercury level of 18.9 ppm in a man who eats dolphin to this day.

One tragic side effect of the ban on commercial whaling is that Japanese fishermen have increased their slaughter of dolphins many fold. A product labelled and sold as whale meat is often found to be dolphin meat if subject to molecular genetic analysis.

There is som tragic irony that the arguement that we not kill dolphins and whales for food cunsumption includes the fact that we have contaminated the seas to such an extent that these creatures are dangerous to eat.

BUT, there is hope. Safe Catch! Safe Catch inspects the fish to ensure it meets conventional standards: It has to fall within the normal size for the particular type of tuna, and display no visible deformities or strange odors that indicate disease. Then, Safe Catch partnered with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program–a global authority on sustainable and ethical seafood standards–to ensure the catch methods and labor practices of the fishing companies they source from fall in line with those standards.  Furthermore, Safe Catch only sources from fisheries that have been certified by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

To carry out the mercury test, Safe Catch takes a small flesh biopsy (around the size of a grain of rice), using a syringe-like tool. The sample is then injected into the technology interface. On the screen, the Safe Catch team enters data about the origin and size of the fish; the analysis of the mercury level takes under a minute. Those fish that don’t pass the test are returned to the fishermen and likely sold to other tuna companies.

References

https://www.fastcompany.com/40497117/this-mercury-safe-tuna-company-is-on-a-mission-to-clean-up-the-oceans

https://www.foedevarestyrelsen.dk/Selvbetjening/Guides/Sider/Saadan-begraenser-du-kviksoelv-fra-isaer-fisk.aspx

http://www.bluevoice.org/news_dolphinmeat.php

Bananas from Ecuador – Village and bananas showered in pesticides

In Ecuador, you live and die with the poisonous bananas.

Bananas from Ecuador are sprayed with pesticides, many of which are particularly toxic.

Seven are illegal in the EU and, according to the Danish Environmental Protection Agency, all 18 are banned in Denmark. The pesticides are applied by airplanes spraying the pesticides beyond Ecuador’s more than 5000 banana plantations. This has major consequences for you and the village San Pedro de la Y.

The pesticides affects both banana workers and locals so they get sick. Very sick. Several of the pesticides used in Ecuador’s banana plantations are, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), carcinogenic or have similar serious side effects.

There is a lot of money in bananas in Ecuador, and very few have the courage to stand up against the powerful industry – not at all if you live and work in one of the country’s banana provinces.

DR (Danish national Radio), which is the reference for this post, has interviewed banana plantation workers, one of them is Efren Velez Cedeño. During the work of one the banana plantations, Efren was repeatedly bathed in the dust of pesticides. Now he is seriously ill with a liver disease and due to this unable to work anymore.

“It burns on the skin. Stings and claws. We never ever knew beforehand when it would be sprayed from the planes. Never. We had to hide under some plastic or a tiny roof”says Efren Velez Cedeño, who has worked in the plantations for 30 years, until he got sick.

This is not a view thatEduardo Ledesma, chairman of Ecuador’s banana exporters, believe to be true. According to him, no plantations in Ecuador use pesticides that are illegal in the EU: “If they are banned by the EU, I can assure you that they are not used here. And in that case, tell me the name of the product and the banana producer. Tell me who they are. If you’re a good journalist, tell me. My partners do not use pesticides that are banned by the EU.”

Whether or not people are affected by the pesticides when sprayed, Eduardo Ledesma states: “It’s a lie, it’s a lie because the workers get a message, nobody is so stupid. The pesticides come from planes with a GPS that controls where the pesticides will land. If sprayed over populated areas or in an irresponsible manner, it would happen that the banana workers were hit. It’s false information from competing countries that want to hurt Ecuador.”

The EU recognizes that aerial spraying can have serious negative consequences for human health, and seeks to avoid these consequences among EU citizens. Therefore, aerial spraying of crops with pesticides is discouraged unless exceptional conditions are present that would make the spraying an advantage instead of a risk for humans and the environment, according to DanWatch.

Nevertheless, European consumers risk buying bananas that are sprayed from the air with pesticides so dangerous that they risk making workers and their children ill, states DanWatch.

What is your thoughts?

If you want to read more about this matter, I highly recommend this article by DanWatch: https://danwatch.dk/en/undersoegelse/the-poison-comes-from-the-sky/

References:

https://www.dr.dk/nyheder/udland/i-ecuador-baade-lever-og-doer-man-med-de-giftige-bananer

They live and die by bananas

The current food supply chain is broken. Here is 5 reasons

Supply chains. We know surprisingly very little about most of the products we eat every day. Before even reaching the end consumer, products travel through an often-vast process flow of retailers, distributors, transporters, storage facilities, and suppliers. Here is five reasons the current system aren’t working:

1. Complexity – In the beginning, two centuries ago, the supply chain was a revolutionary idea. The idea was improve visibility and control of products through interorganizational exchange, as they moved from A to Z. But this old concept and the inherent technology can no longer support today’s production and supply cycles of products, which have become extremely fragmented, complicated process and geographically scattered across the globe. The effect is, that supply chains now is a blurred process that is extremely hard to manage for retail businesses, to effectively track and trace their products, and thereby paving the path for, e.g. fraudulent behaviour. The emphasis on providing cheap food has led to complex supply chains which are ripe for fraudulent activity, according to Prof. Chris Elliot.

2. Demand – We, as consumers, are very demanding when it comes to food. We want fresh bananas, juicy tomatoes, tasty mango all year long, no matter the season, we want it. And your local supermarket knows, and are trying to deliver out-of-season food all year long. It takes a lot of resources to ship non-local goods around the world, which from a sustainability stance, is very damaging.

3. Traceability – With more companies outsourcing for raw materials and distribution, having end-to-end visibility in a supply chain is an absolute necessity in order to ensure public safety, as well as brand protection. The information and data is an integral part of the product quality, so this information needs to provide an accurate picture of where your products are at any given time in your supply chain. A food traceability system is only effective if it can track and trace every component of every product, which the current system can’t.

4. Certifications – On the face of it, certifications on everything from fish to timber can be seen as progress, with a promise of better standards and the pursuit of sustainability. But what purpose are the certification labels actually serving? Can we assume that they are beneficial to producers? Do consumers understand what’s behind a certification label, as there seems to arise new certifications all the time? Today, the industry is more aware that certification alone isn’t addressing problems of low productivity, poor infrastructure and child labour, which continue to destabilise the supply chain. An example is Fairtrade, which is not that fair at all.

5. Transparency – With the requirement of only knowing one step back, and one step forth, actors in food supply chains have very little transparency of where their products come from. This, and other factors, leads to scandals like horse meat in cow meat, harmful pesticides in bananas, Chinese terrified of eating processed food and fraud with extra virgin olive oil.

References:

https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2016/mar/10/fairtrade-labels-certification-rainforest-alliance

https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20120511005906/en/trace-Lack-traceability-product-integrity-%E2%80%93-profits

Blockchain as a food supply chain

How to improve trust in supply chains – by blockchain

Introduction 
The main purpose of this blog post is to state how Blockchain Technology influence the role of trust and how it might solve the challenges in tracking and tracing products throughout its supply chain, by identification of opportunities with blockchain as a platform of traceability, information and documentation sharing regarding Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO). The case partner was COOP Trading. This blog post is an executive summary of a master thesis on the matter.

We know surprisingly very little about most of the products we eat every day. Before even reaching the end consumer, products travel through an often-vast process flow of retailers, distributors, transporters, storage facilities, and suppliers, yet in almost every case these journeys remain unseen. This can lead to fraud of adulteration and tampering with the products we consume everyday. Which the The Danish Veterinary and Food Administration action team found, by adulterated EVOOs at Dagrofa and Dansk Supermarked. Out of the 35 tested bottles, only 6 could be classified as EVOO.

Challenges
The identified challenges from the gathered data, were the difficulty to qualify trust as it’s very ambiguous of what it entails, but is key to have an effective supply chain. Regarding the actual process of EVOO, the law requirement of only knowing “one step back, one step forth” of where the product came from, the lack of interoperability of systems along the supply chain, formats rangning from paper slips, oral communication to large ERP systems. The low traceability and documentation sharing hinders an effective supply chain, especially when fraudulent behaviour seems a great concern.

Results
One of the outcomes where what kinds of trust might be influenced by blockchain. Contract trust, predictability and dependability was chosen from 21 different kinds (Seppänen 2005). After a workshop with COOP Trading employee’s, they deemed contract trust as a central aspect of trust in a supplier out of the 21. It was found that blockchain and smart contracts inherent qualities that might qualify the technology to accomplish a form of digital trust, by managing one of the approaches to measure trust, contract trust.
The outcome for COOP Trading was conceptual UML blockchain design, illustrating the possibilities of enhanced traceability, information, documentation sharing along the supply chain of EVOO. The challenges depicted was information quality, legal implications and digital trust.

  • With information quality, is the issue with garbage in, garbage out as data transferred to the blockchain needs to be truthful and of high quality for the blockchain platform to work. This might be solved by RFID tags to get quality data.
  • Legal implications is the current legislation challenging greater traceability and information sharing, due to contractual bindings between buyer/supplier (FPA), and on blockchain application legislation as it is highly unregulated.
  • With digital trust would be a form of calculative trust, that one can place trust in a technology to handle what is to be expected of it, and thereby handle aspects of trust.

The takeaway
Blockchain have great opportunities to influence the role of trust, by developing a form of digital trust, and be a platform for greater traceability, product information and documentation sharing among supply chain participants. With any new technological improvements it should sprout internally, teaching management of the possibilities, internal meetings and identify other areas where the technology can be applied in the future. Take time to do a simple test, gain knowledge and grow from there.

If this has your interest, raised some questions or just got you curious for more, please contact me. I have a 12 page summary that gives a lot more detail, and of course the 109 page long full thesis on the matter, if you´re really into it.

Looking forward to hear from you.

Kristoffer Just

Below is the illustrations made, first the current supply chain of EVOO and then with blockchain as a platform.

Current


Blockchain supply chain

© 2018 Kristoffer Just Petersen

Interview – Audit and Control Specialist, Johnny Helt

You buy your food products every day from your favorite store. Bring them home for you and your family to eat. But what you might not be aware off (and rightly so), is all the hard work that has gone before the food product lands on the shelfs. Some are working to make sure there is transparency and traceability of the food we eat. I think it is important to know how the system works now, to know what can be done to improve the transparency and traceability.

That’s why I have made this interview blog post.

One of these great people that are are trying to make sure that the food we eat, are safe to eat, is Johnny, an Audit and Control Specialist. Johnny works at COOP Trading which is a procurement company for COOP in the Nordics. I had the pleasure of interviewing Johnny as a part of my data collection for my thesis. During my thesis process I could feel his personal commitment to make sure that the food products he handles, is investigated as best as possible with the tools at hand. So here goes!

Can you start with telling us a little about yourself?

My name is Johnny Helt and I am hired in Coop Trading as Audit and Control Specialist. My primary work are audit and control, but I also process and develop tools to make our control and audits more agile and more professional. I have a bachelor in Nutrition and Home Economics and I am ISO 9001 IRCA approved lead auditor.

What is quality control and auditing, and why is it important?

Quality control and audit are the same, just with other words. As I see it, audit is also control. Control is to ensure that processes comply with the legislation, specifications, procedures and specific demands from third parties. The importance of quality control and auditing is described as a deeper investigation of the specific product or processes to ensure that it comply with the demands, if not you will get products and processes that are out of control and the outcome will fail. That’s why control and auditing are important.

Great, but how did you first get involved with quality control and auditing?

I have always been dedicated to quality control; it is part of my “way of working”. I worked in DLG (Dansk Landbrugs Grovvare Selskab) for almost 10 years, with implementing HACCP and process control.

What are your current work in relation to quality control and auditing?

My current work are to evaluate and prequalify suppliers to Coop Group, doing supplier audits all over the world (app. 50 audits a year), developing new tools to make the work with audit and control more agile, delivering input to our team, handling complaints for all countries in Coop Group, handling recalls, and a lot more.

What is the most challenging aspect of your work with quality control and auditing?

The most challenging aspect of working with control and auditing are that “things” are not always as they seem to be, and you have to be very process orientated and get into the mindset of the supplier/producer, to see and evaluate the performance of the supplier. Especially when I do traceability on the audits, I feel I have to think like “a criminal”, how could I cheat and how would I do it…. Especially on high value products (Extra Virgin Olive Oil, meat, etc.)

Building on that, from your knowledge, what can be done to create greater traceability of food products and why?

Based on the European legislation the suppliers has to trace “one forward and one backwards”. Today we live in a world where “everything” is possible and I think that revising the demands to traceability should be developed, especially on products, which are high value products. So it would be a great idea to build a system, where you also could “follow the money”, and not only the product.

This was a short glimpse of just one role “behind the scenes” of getting your food products safe and sound to the dinner table. So, thank you Johnny for this insight, and if you want to read more on supply chains and how blockchain can change it for the better, read this post.

PS: I will follow up on Johnny’s “follow the money”, on how to use blockchain as a Supply Chain Finance tool for better transparency. Stay tuned!

© 2018 Kristoffer Just Petersen

Interview – “Mr. RFID”, Henrik Granau (Part 2)

Welcome to Part 2 of my interview with Henrik Granau, or more correctly, Mr. RFID. If you haven’t read Part 1, I urge you to do that, to get a good understanding of Henrik, RFID and its challenges. Simply click here!

If you already have read Part 1, I love that you did, then you know that this part is going to focus on the opportunities with RFID within food traceability/transparency. No more small talk, let’s dive into it!

And then turning from the challenges, what are the general opportunities with RFID?

There are a lot of application areas and certain Industries where there are still obvious opportunities, but in general I believe it is in the combination with other technologies we see the huge potential;

By using RFID you create a transparency on how goods, assets etc. are flowing through your operation and if you add to this detailed information on how the workflow is actually being performed, you have established the foundation of making better decisions in your organization.

When combining these operational data with other data (‘Big Data’) and Software Robots (Artificial Intelligence), you can create new services and business models (‘disruption’).

Almost everything within the area of ‘Internet of Things’ involve wireless communication with a device which has to be uniquely identified to make sense – hence “RFID” will be ‘pervasive’.   

Building on that, from your knowledge, what are the potential of RFID tags to create greater traceability of food products and why?

Internationally we already have a number of good cases in food traceability (Fish, livestock, vegetables) with RFID and combined with temperature sensors, we have established better cold-chain management. I believe that traceability within the supply chain can still be improved, but in general the technology is in place and we have the good cases with documented results.

The challenge is that we want the consumers to be able to have the complete history of each item available on their smartphone with one scan. If it’s RFID (NFC) or 2D barcode doesn’t matter so much – the challenge is to capture all the information during the product’s lifetime automatically which is achieved by using RFID on the transportation unit. For this to work, the unique item numbers which are packed has to be associated with the unique identifier of the transportation unit, and in some areas you will then have to add some evidence that the goods hasn’t been tampered with during transportation.

So creating greater traceability is possible with RFID, but you have other issues depending on the objectives; 1) for manufacturers to issue effective recalls, 2) for consumers to check the goods before consumption, 3) for protecting against fraud, etc.  

What potential do you see in a RFID/Blockchain combination to create greater traceability of food products, from your knowledge?

I am not a blockchain specialist, but I understand that what blockchain can add is a bulletproof distributed verification mechanism. So, when the issue is to have verification that a specific organization is guaranteeing that their part of the traceability data are valid, then you could use blockchain to lock a certain ‘hand-over’ transaction with some associated data. If RFID is used then this process could be done automatically at choke points. As an anti-counterfeit method.

I believe I can learn more about the potential with RFID/Blockchain by being kept updated on your progress.

If someone was interested in RFID, what would be a few things you would suggest to investigate further?

I will start with recommending to vist www.rfididk.org. This is RFID I Danmark’s website where we have tried to give a good introduction to RFID – especially through cases and slides from presentations held at our conferences.

As a special service the RFID I Danmark Association is offering that anyone for free can contact me with initial questions. You can mail me at henrik@rfididk.dk or you can call me at +45 21 832 835.

Thank you to Henrik, for his great insights into RFID and the opportunities. From this and what I learned from the RFID in Denmark conference, I see great potential for a RFID/Blockchain solution in supply chains. RFID will secure correct data inputs, which can’t be tampered or adulterated, which then are data inputs for the immutable blocks in the blockchain application.

One of the key takeaways from the conference, was the lack of adoption and their one-sided focus on RFID being a inventory solution, and not grasping a more holistic picture of what the tech can do. And I feel that, that is a general thing when investigating new technologies, that it is very one-sided and not trying to connect all the dots.

Thank you reading, have a great day!

© 2017 Kristoffer Just Petersen