Tag Archives: Complexity

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

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 – “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

What is Blockchain? And how does it work?

The Genesis

The blockchain technology was invented by a person under the alias Satoshi Nakamoto, to support the cryptocurrency Bitcoin (Nakamoto 2007). For the first time it was possible for many users to trade values with each other over the Internet without the need for a third party or intermediary – typically a bank – to verify the transaction. A blockchain is a ledger of facts, replicated across several computers assembled in a distributed peer-to-peer network. Or put simply, a chain of blocks (Beck 2017). Anyone participating in a blockchain can review the entries in it; users can update the blockchain only by consensus of a majority of participants. Once entered into a blockchain, information can never be erased (Nakamoto 2007: 2).

Blocks are an order of facts in a network of non-trusted peers, similar to how Uber’s technology intermediates between suppliers and consumers of transportation. Facts are grouped in blocks, and there is only a single chain of blocks, which then is replicated in the entire network. Each block has a reference to the previous block, through the hashing cryptography that links the blocks. Some of the nodes in the chain create a new block with pending facts. They, in the case of bitcoin miners, compete to see if their local block is going to become the next block in the chain for the entire network, called proof of work. Then this block is sent to all other nodes in the network. All nodes run a check on that to see if the block is correct, then add it to their copy of the chain, and try to build a new block with new pending facts (Nakamoto 2007: 3).

But it has gradually become clear that the technique has much broader applications than just acting as the backbone of Bitcoin. One of the key elements is the ledger, which is a database of the content of the blockchain – whether it is bitcoin transactions, intelligent smart contracts, or something else (Boye 2016).

Blockchain is a type of electronic ledger created to ensure that once a party transfers a digital asset, he cannot transfer it to anyone else, prevent double spending. Unlike other ledgers, blockchain is owned by its participants, and decisions about what it records are subject to participant consensus.

Recording accuracy is ensured by duplication: every participant has a copy of the ledger. Discrepancy-resolution mechanisms ensure that all copies reflect an identical history. Though permissions can be managed with a fair degree of control, by default any permitted participant can view all transactions. Thus together with immutability, notarization and assured provenance, transparency is a core blockchain attribute (1).

There are many ways of applying a blockchain technology, in short, either as a public blockchain, a private blockchain, or as a consortium blockchain. A public blockchain is a blockchain that anyone in the world can read, through which anyone in the world can send transactions, and include transactions if they are valid, i.e. Bitcoin (Buterin 2015). A fully private blockchain is a blockchain where write permissions are kept “centralized” to one or few institutions, i.e. banks (Buterin 2015). A consortium blockchain is a blockchain where the consensus process is controlled by a pre-selected set of nodes. An example, is a consortium of 15 financial institutions, each of which operates a node and of which 10 must sign every block in order for the block to be valid. A consortium blockchain can be altered to fit the need of the one using it, ex that the R3 consortium want different “rules”, than the Hyperledger consortium or Ethereum Alliance (Buterin 2015; R3; Hyperledger).  

Public blockchains can offer advantages that a private blockchain and consortium simply cannot, and vice versa. The take-away with the different ways of adopting blockchain technology, in relation to COOP Trading, is what they want to gain from a blockchain solution, who should be a part of it, who should have read and write permissions and what data can’t be shared. One must have a high due diligence in order to research the possibilities and challenges with a blockchain solution.     

Factbox:

“A block is the ‘current’ part of a blockchain which records some or all of the recent transactions, and once completed goes into the blockchain as permanent database. Each time a block gets completed, a new block is generated. There is a countless number of such blocks in the blockchain. The blocks are linked to each other (like a chain) in proper linear, chronological order with every block containing a hash of the previous block.” (Investopedia)

Finally, blockchain isn’t simply a secure collective database. In addition to transactions, it also records and executes simple programs.

The idea of pre-programed conditions, interfaced between users, and then broadcasted to everyone, is called a smart contract. A contract is a promise that signing parties agree to make legally-enforceable. Proponents of smart contracts claim that many kinds of contractual clauses can be partially or fully self-executing, even self-enforcing, or both. The aim of smart contracts is to provide security, which is superior to traditional contract law and to reduce other transaction costs associated with contracting (Tapscott 2016: 105-108). Buterin explains it as: “(…) then we can cut costs to near-zero with a smart contract.” (Parker 2016).

Blockchain smart contracts may also influence, or be influenced by, product movements. For instance, a positive QA test indication can release a part for assembly. However, today that role is played by ERP systems. Blockchain technology doesn’t necessarily add value in such traditional operations management tasks (1).

Factbox:

“An asset or currency is transferred into a program and the program runs this code and at some point it automatically validates a condition and it automatically determines whether the asset should go to one person or back to the other person, or whether it should be immediately refunded to the person who sent it or some combination thereof.” (BlockGeeks)

  1. http://www.sdcexec.com/article/12247812/supply-chain-finance-on-the-blockchain-enables-network-collaboration

© 2018 Kristoffer Just Petersen