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Walmart asks grower producers to use Blockchain monitoring

Producing companies that want to sell lettuce and salads at Walmart and Sam & # 39; s Clubs will have to learn the skills of cryptocurrency traders, the recently announced retailer giant. By the end of January 2020, Walmart will require Californian manufacturing companies like Dole, Taylor Farms and Fresh Express to join a blockchain-based supply chain that the mega-retailer has been experimenting with for nearly two years to allow Walmart to track the source of foodborne illness.

Switching to the encrypted system of shared information made famous by bitcoins would have allowed Walmart and its suppliers to contain and limit calls to Walmart and Sam & # 39; s Club stores, a $ 280 billion food empire.

"We are asking our suppliers of fresh, leafy vegetables to track down their produce at the source, at farms, in seconds and not days or weeks," said Frank Yiannas, Walmart's vice president of food safety, on Monday.

Walmart's move could upset the way in which the manufacturing industry controls its supply lines, a system that is not only the digital era of the last century, but the current era of interconnected devices "smart" and data encryption capabilities.

Producing companies concentrated in the Salinas Valley and Yuma, Arizona, have been severely hit this year by a nationwide fright on Roman lettuce contaminated with E. coli bacteria.

Five people died and 205 fell ill in the 36-state epidemic that began in April and prompted an unusual national consumer adviser to avoid any lettuce grown in the Yuma region.

Consumers were largely disconcerted and unable to find out where their lettuce was grown, officials recognized at the time.

The strain of bacteria responsible for the diseases was found in an irrigation canal of the Yuma area, but only one farm was identified as the source of an isolated group of illnesses among Alaska prisoners.

The authorities believe that there are more farms that cultivate contaminated lettuce, but have not been able to prove the thesis before lettuce production stops in the region. At the time it was declared in July, the epidemic was the largest and most fatal that has ever affected the production industry.

"The time has come for a better way to tackle the problem of food traceability," said Yiannas. "There is a strong case of public health and a corporate case for doing so."

Yiannas said the blockchain requirement "should not really be a surprise" for those selling in the vast Walmart network. The company has been experimenting with a pilot program for almost two years, involving major food companies such as Nestle, Danone, Unilever and the Driscoll berries in Watsonville.

"We were quite transparent and vocal in the work we are doing," he said.

Dole, for example, participated in the trial period of the company for the system and Taylor Farms, a company known for an aggressive adoption of food safety technology, reacted positively to change, said Yiannas. (Officials with those companies were not immediately available for a comment on Monday).

For suppliers, change is more cultural than technological. Inside, the blockchain is a democratized accounting system where information is not centralized but distributed on a shared ledger.

Instead of losing privacy by moving proprietary data into a centralized space that must be protected from hacking, blockchain creates a network in which each participant shares and verifies limited information, linked by complex encrypted codes, such as train cars.

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