Tag Archives: Challenges

Blockchain, Provenance, Traceability & Chain of Custody

This is an article written by John G. Keogh.

Here are my answers to questions posed over the past few months online and in industry and regulator dialogue. As some of my points can be successfully argued from different angles, this is intended to create the dialogue and not limit it. Your comments and perspectives are valuable and I look forward to this discussion.

Question 1 : Do I need a Blockchain for effective Food Recall? 

No. In a closed supply chain with limited exchange partners you don’t need a blockchain to execute a rapid recall of an unsafe product. Any GS1-standards based technology platform can be used to rapidly trace (backward) and track (forward) a consumer packaged product if the product has a data carrier (barcode) and/or batch/lot # attached. Check out the GS1 global office website or your country GS1 organization as they have a traceability and product recall standard and guidelines on how to execute recall effectively.

In the USA, industry standards body GS1 has partnered with GMA and FMI and has a nationwide, cloud-based Rapid Recall Express platform in operation for almost 10 years. There are similar industry-driven, national recall platforms in place in CanadaAustralia and New Zealand which align to regulations and helps protect consumers and reduces industry risks. GS1 South Korea has a ‘stop-sale’ process in place with multiple government regulators for about 10 years. If any of the regulators determine a product is unsafe, the regulator sends a GS1-centric message to the retailers HQ. Within 30 minutes of receiving the regulators alert, all points of sale (cash registers) in the country are blocked and the ‘stop-sale’ process is enacted. I have seen this in action and it’s amazing. The stop-sale process is quickly followed by the formal recall process. This globally unique process reduces the risk of consumer harm and helps to protect the brand at the same time.

Blockchain is helpful for a recall use case when you have multiple exchange partners across multiple countries and using disparate technologies (see Q2). The opensource and purpose-built blockchain data protocol from OriginTrail is very useful in this scenario because it enables GS1-standards based interoperability between multiple blockchains and legacy. As the below slide from OriginTrail indicates, today we have many data silos and interoperability is crucial to address both traceability, transparency and to execute a rapid recall. Origin Trail will be the first to advise that without first addressing data governance (accurate and standardized data) blockchain will not work as intended.

Disclaimer: I advise the Origin Trail board on industry standards, transparency and trust

Question 2: Are current food regulations driving the need for Blockchains?

Yes. Regulations are generally non-prescriptive and in the food chain they call for a “1-up/1-down” traceability. In complex, multi-party supply chains this is costly, time-consuming and can lead to (preventable) illness and death. In the Walmart Mango use case, it took almost 7 days to execute a mock recall based on 1-up/1-down approach and 2.2 seconds using their specific Blockchain configuration. Blockchain technology is helpful in complex, multi-country, multi-exchange party supply chains that already have good data governance and industry data standards (GS1) in place. A standards-based blockchain enables linkages to be made between the exchange parties and permits sharing of product master data, transactional data and event data – the unhindered flow and visibility of this data is what we call transparency.

I have adapted and use the following diagram to explain the success of the Walmart model in context of theoretical and practical applications of transparency and trust using technology. In this model, the below-the-line RMT indicates regulation mediated transparency. You will note that this is based on mistrust – so are strong contracts that buyers put in place with suppliers. The alternative is what Walmart achieved with voluntary trust-building with strategic transparency and identification based trust enabled by technology – what I call TMT or Technology Mediated Transparency.

Question 3: Can Blockchain guarantee Food Safety and Food Authenticity?

No. Blockchain is oversold as a guarantee of food safety, food authenticity and anti-counterfeit in general. The only legitimate and legal way to guarantee food safety and authenticity is through analytical testing of the product itself – we cannot track the outer package or container and claim the food is safe and authentic. On-pack security features (forensic, covert or overt) help in fraud detection but forensic evidence is required for successful conviction in food fraud cases.

Example 1. WINE bottle recycling

There is a known underground industry that trades in used wine bottles. A hotel or restaurant worker may be incentivized to collect and sell empty vintage wine bottles for hundreds of dollars each. They are re-filled and re-sold for thousands of $, often with fake security features. According to a 2017 Forbes article, an estimated 30,000 bottles of fake imported wine are sold in China every hour. Solution providers are making technology advances and offering security features that create obstacles on the bottle itself including tamper-evident features and fraud alerts for multiple scans of the serialized identifier. Despite the technology improvements and their utility, the only way to legally guarantee the wine is genuine is through forensic testing of the wine bottle contents against the reference samples taken from the harvested crop, or the final blended mix. The storage of reference samples by harvested batch may be a regulatory requirement in some regions.

Example 2. Commingling of fresh fruit and vegetables

Colorful vegetables for sale at the Central Market of Hoi An, Vietnam

Fresh fruits and vegetables may be commingled with products from multiple, geographically dispersed suppliers which increases the risks related to quality, safety, authenticity and provenance. For example, a product may claim to be organic but might have 50% non-organic mixed in to complete the order. The role of blockchain and other technologies in this scenario is limited because human behaviour is the variable. Risk reduction strategies will vary and depend on the context and culture. They can draw on combinations of 1) incentivized behaviour to reduce cheating 2) training on a food safety culture 3) effective food safety practices 4) farm and supply chain auditing 5) industry supply chain standards 6) technology solutions and 7) analytical science. The latter, analytical science being the most critical for evidence.

Question 4: Can Blockchain deliver a guarantee of Food Provenance?

European flags on minced meat. International meat trade

No. This is confusing I know. Provenance refers to geographic source or origin and is determined by forensic science not software, GPS or hardware (see below traceability). Let me share a hypothetical example; lets say we have potatoes and carrots in Vietnam that go to market as ‘product of Vietnam’. In one possible scenario, bad actors could roll the veggies in dampened local dirt to enhance the illusion of being a local product. When the product is forensically tested, both the veggie species, and their carbon fingerprint proves they are indigenous to, and were grown in a particular region of China. This is food fraud and classified as an economically motivated adulteration where a cheaper product is sold as a more expensive premium local product. Blockchain, IoT, stickers/logos or barcodes on bundles of products will not solve this because human behaviour is the variable.

Analytical laboratories can address these issues as part of a regular audit of suppliers and supply chains. Similarly, forensic testing can determine if fish were wild caught or farmed. Companies doing exceptionally well at this today include Perth-based Source Certain and New Zealand-based Oritain, to name a few.

Question 5: What’s the difference between provenance, traceability and chain of custody?

Even the experts get these confused. Let me explain how I see it. Provenance is defined above as geographic source or origin and it is guaranteed only through the results of forensic testing of it’s carbon fingerprint. You will hear experts or software companies say they ‘track provenance’. In many cases what they really mean is classic supply chain traceability or in some cases, chain of custody. Classic traceability includes the source of the materials and is best interpreted as the ‘business or logistics source’. In my opinion, we should not call it tracking provenance as we are not necessarily tracking the true geographic source or origin per-se, we are tracking physical ‘movement’ from a business or logistics source through the supply chain. This draws an important distinction between classic product traceability and forensic product traceability of the geographic source or origin as defined by forensic testing of the products carbon fingerprint.

To help the discussion and align on terminology, see below definitions of food traceability extracted from Olsen and Borit (2013).

CODEX: Traceability is defined in the Codex Alimentarius Commission Procedural Manual (FAO/WHO, 1997) as “the ability to follow the movement of a food through specified stage(s) of production, processing and distribution ”.

ISO: Traceability defined in ISO 9000 and ISO 22005. ISO 9000 (ISO, 2000) as “The ability to trace the history, application or location of that which is under consideration”

The ISO 22005 (ISO, 2005 ) definition is word for word the same as the ISO 9000 definition, but ISO 9000 is a standard for quality management systems in general whereas ISO 22005 is a specific standard for traceability in the food and feed chain. ISO 22005 adds that “Terms such as document traceability, computer traceability, or commercial traceability should be avoided. ”

For all these ISO definitions (ISO 8402, ISO 9000, ISO 22005), there is an additional clause which states that when relating to products, traceability specifically entails “the origin of materials and parts, the processing history, and the distribution and location of the product after delivery”.

EU General Food Law (EU, 2002) defines traceability as “The ability to trace and follow a food, feed, food producing animal or substance intended to be, or expected to be incorporated into a food or feed, through all stages of production, processing and distribution ”.

 

The net-net, traceability includes the material origin. A brief note: within a supply chain, physical products are tracked-forward but traced-backwards and this bi-directional capability is generally referred to as traceability. The chart below is unpublished and from my academic research. It shows the nuances of information, product and assurance flows.

 

Chain of Custody (CoC)

CoC or cumulative tracking was an active discussion in pharmaceuticals in the early to mid 2000’s but seems to have lost some favour. CoC is critically and legally important in highly regulated sectors. For example in weapons, explosives, transport of bulk money, works of art etc. where exact time stamps of the product physical movement, locations and details of all transactions including the parties in physical custody must be tracked and registered. This is similar to a FedEx package delivery where very detailed information is available and signatures are required for acceptance from one party to another. This accumulation of data along the supply chain is sometimes referred to as similar to a ‘Russian doll’.

Example: Pharmaceuticals and Tobacco

Pharmaceuticals and tobacco are two sectors that are highly regulated to protect against many issues including illicit trade, counterfeit, human health and safety etc. What this means is that every dispensing unit of a drug and every pack of cigarettes must be globally and uniquely identified with a serial number and tracked at every stage in it’s supply chain (to the point of dispensing for drugs and to the last point before purchase for tobacco. Note, drugs are tracked to prescriptions and patients, tobacco is not tracked to smokers).

In the (old) chart below from GS1, CoC is represented by cumulative tracking in comparison to 1-up/1-downcentralized database control for closed networks and distributed databases; which we noted more than 15 years ago and is now similar to the current blockchain dialogue. The latest version of the various traceability models can be found in the GS1 Global Traceability Standard (2017).

Disclaimer: I was previously a senior vice president at GS1 Canada and Director of Product & Consumer Safety at GS1 Global office.

Food is regulated of course but not to the extent above that it requires serial number specificity (lot size 1). Generally, food is tracked by lot, batch or date code and a can of soda will have the same global trade item number (GTIN) as the same soda product next to it. The GTIN, while globally unique and aligned to the brand is not a serial number and is referred to as a product family or class code. With the increase in food fraud, there is now growing momentum to add a second data carrier to a food product with a serialized identifier and links to a product web page or product authentication tools. Note, date carrier is a ‘family name’ for all barcodes and RFID tags. Regulations may suggest the ‘data to be carried’ and the brand owner will then select the appropriate data carrier.

To visualize how a GTIN works in a food chain today, see the chart below from GS1 which can be found in the 2017 version of the Global Traceability Standard

BREAKING NEWS

On August 13th 2018, GS1 released a new standard called the GS1 Digital Linkstandard which will enable connections to all types of B2B and B2C information. This new standard is the foundational bridge between physical products and their digital twins.

That’s it for this post – your comments, feedback and opinions are highly valued and very important. Keep an eye out for upcoming posts on topics related to transparency, trust, credence, anti-counterfeit, traceability, product recall, blockchain, provenance and many more.

About the Author:

John G. Keogh is a sought-after speaker, advisor and researcher. Operating at the intersection of the Public + Private sectors globally, he provides confidential advisory, research & interventions across policy, operations, strategy and technology.

John holds a PG Dip. and an MBA in General Mgmt. He has an MSc (distinction) in Business and Management Research into Supply Chain Transparency and Consumer Trust. He is currently a part-time, associate researcher at Henley Business School, undertaking doctoral (DBA) research into food chain transparency and consumer trust. John plans to publish an ebook “Food Chain Transparency – what executives need to know” in 2018.

Photo by Martin Adams on Unsplash

#YouAreWhatYouEat

In many countries, especially here in Denmark and EU, we don´t have to worry about when we get the next meal. Many of us have the possibility to pick and chose what we want to eat, and when. So in the age of self-realization, we can now use tech to make sure that we eat healthy, or least try to.

“One quarter of what you eat keeps you alive. The other three-quarters keeps your doctor alive” – Source unkown

Eating healthy starts with understanding what you’re eating on a frequent basis, but we all know that tracking what you eat, and trying to determine the nutritional information of certain meals requires a significant amount of effort. And a lot of data handling. So companies are developing apps and new tech, to let you monitor our own health. Many of these products are still in their infancy, so the data collected have to be taken with a grain of salt, but they offer an important glimpse into the future of self-regulation and personal health management.

Why is this important in the light of transparency?

If we can monitor what our body, with precision, consumes of sugar, pesticides, non-organic etc, it will have a reverse effect. When Millennials adopt health apps, that will make them much more interested in knowing the source of their food. With a never growing population of consumers with food allergies, they are demanding a clear information about reliable information. And with the growing interest in sustainable, organic, and local food, there is a pressure from consumers that value eating organic and/or sustainable, on the industry, to ensure that it really is organic, or sustainable.

“If everything is known, if it is known what is inside a product and its health effect on the body, that will really be a big change in the industry as we know it” – Nard Clabbers, Senior Business Developer at TNO

One of the companies trying to deliver precise transparent meal nutritional content is AVA. AVA uses artificial intelligence to allow users to take a photo, with their smartphone, of their meal to get instant information about the meal´s nutritional content. This is just one example, with other tech companies and startups applying blockchain, machine learning (ML), big data, argumented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).

Next week, you can read more about AVA and the tech companies and startups that are paving the way for more transparency of the food we eat. It might not be the companies business models, but it will be great side-effect with the focus on personal nutrition.

Sources:

https://medium.com/@sirianbrady/introducing-ava-and-intelligent-eating-224b0f9be826

Book: Our Food Our Future – Eat better, waste less, share more; (2017) Alan Watkins & Matt Simister.

Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

Top 3 foods with hightest environmental footprint

Climate change is getting real, and agriculture is one of the largest sources of heat-trapping greenhouse gases such as methane and carbon dioxide.

But when it comes to their “carbon footprint,” not all foods are created equal. So here is a Top 3 with the highest carbon footprint, and a visual overview of all foods with the highest carbon footprint. This is so you are aware, and have this in mind, when you put your food in the basket. An easy way to bypass this, is to buy as local as possible.

Top 3

  1.  39.2 kg of CO2.                                                                                                       You thought is was beef, but sorry lamb lovers. Eating a kilo of lamb is equivalent to driving about 90 miles or 145 km! In the US a massive 50% of lamb is imported, so a lot of the carbon footprint comes from shipping. But the main contribution is the animals’ digestion, their feed, manure management and other farm operations.
  2. 27 kg of CO2
    The sinner we all know (or should know) is beef. Cows produce a lot of methane (a potent greenhouse gas), and also require a lot of water and land. Especially in South America, a lot of rainforest have been eliminated, to make way for huge farms for the never ending urge for for beef.
  3. 13.5 kg of CO2
    And maybe the joker here, is cheese. Cheese is also a major CO2 contributor. Only a small fraction of cheese is imported to the US, but that accounts for half of all the carbon emissions from cheese.

 

Source: https://bit.ly/2Ek9hPL

 

Sources:

http://www.businessinsider.com/the-top-10-foods-with-the-biggest-environmental-footprint-2015-9?r=UK&IR=T&IR=T

https://www.ewg.org/meateatersguide/a-meat-eaters-guide-to-climate-change-health-what-you-eat-matters/climate-and-environmental-impacts/

Book: Our Food Our Future – Eat better, waste less, share more; (2017) Alan Watkins & Matt Simister.

Photo by Leon Ephraïm on Unsplash

Farm animal welfare & transparency. So call me blockchain? Maybe

This article is written by Dan McGlynn:

Sustainability & animal welfare – the power of transparency, technology & collaboration – so call me blockchain, maybe?

Farm Animal Welfare – it’s now seen as a strategic opportunity by many global companies.

The benchmark…

I was fortunate enough to attend the launch of the 6th BBFAW report evaluating the performance of 110 large food institutions. The headline was ‘good progress but still a long way to go’.

Thank you to Nicky Amos for inviting me, one of the best events I have ever attended.

The venue was the London Stock Exchange – strange setting you may possibly think? Not so, it became very evident when David Harris, Head of sustainable investment at FTSE Russell opened the event by talking about how investors are closely linking sustainability and animal welfare metrics with share performance and valuation.

All business should take note – as the consumer becomes more aware and demands greater transparency on the goods that they are buying, companies that are transparent with their performance in dealing with ethical, sustainability and animal welfare issues will outperform those that are not.

Steve McIvor – chief executive of World Animal Protection made some great comments : ‘Consumers are showing that they increasingly care about the welfare of animals when they are deciding where to eat’.

The Foodservice industry still has ‘a lot more work to do’ providing transparency of animal welfare in their supply chains according to the new report. Despite making some progress (JD Wetherspoons rose 3 places) in the Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare, pub & restaurant chains lag behind retailers and manufacturers and still need to make improvements.

No hospitality company achieved the ‘tier one’ status in the ranking but McDonald’s & our very own Greggs placed towards the top of tier two after making farm animal welfare a part of their business strategies.

The likes of KFC, Pizza Hut and Starbucks managed tier five, defined as showing limited evidence of implementation, while Subway and Burger King both ranked in tier four, and were defined as making progress. Waitrose, Marks & Spencer and The Co-operative Group all achieved tier one ranking.

The stats are staggering. Globally, 50 billion chickens are slaughtered every year (that’s 7500 every 10 seconds) – a large proportion of those live in unacceptable conditions. A lot of work is being done with the emerging markets of countries such as China, Brazil and Thailand.

 

Did you know that the largest dairy industry in the world is in India? China produces 700 million pigs per year – the UK produces 10 million. Big numbers, lots of animals.

The report scores companies on 4 areas:

·      Management policy & commitment

·      Governance & management

·      Leadership & innovation

·      Performance reporting & impact – increasingly becoming more important

Similar to the Modern Slavery act 2015, it’s not good enough just to have a policy in place. The company needs to have the commitments as part of their culture and strategy and more importantly, measure and report on their performance.

Only 11% of companies report on animal welfare outcomes – that’s 12 out of 110 global businesses. The answer is data and technology.

Can blockchain fill this void? Possibly. There are more and more commentators on this subject, very few are experts and it’s unproven in food. Watch this space and I aim to provide more insight on this subject soon.

There is existing technology that maps supply chains and is able to harvest sustainability & animal welfare KPIs from any part of that chain – look at my linked in profile and you will find out who they are!

Transparency will be king – do not underestimate the power of transparency. Technology will be the vehicle for this much need transparency.

If any of the above has resonated and you would like to discuss this subject further, lets connect and get in touch. I am heading up a project to drive collaboration in the foodservice industry focusing on compliance, ethical and animal welfare performance. All fingers point towards integrity.

Don’t get me started on integrity (doing the right thing even when nobody is looking). That subject is for another day.

I also love feedback – good, bad and ugly, it’s how we all grow so please let me know your thoughts.

Have a great day

Dan McGlynn

Authenticate IS

Original posted here:

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/farm-animal-welfare-transparency-so-call-me-maybe-dan-mcglynn/

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

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

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