FDA 'smart food safety' blueprint cites role of blockchain in tracing products

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration unveiled a new initiative focused on food safety Monday, publishing a policy blueprint that cites the potential role of blockchain tech in tracking products. 

The FDA announced the blueprint and positioned it as the start of a process "to help ensure that we have the safest food system in the world," according to remarks from commissioner Stephen Hahn.

According to the blueprint document, one major component of the overall plan is to use emerging technologies to enhance existing systems and build new ones. 


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"When we look at how industries track, through digital means, the real-time movement of planes, ride sharing, and packaged goods or how firms are harnessing big data to identify trends, it is clear FDA and our stakeholders should be looking at how to tap into new technologies that include, but are not limited to, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, sensor technologies, and blockchain," the document notes.

While the plan largely shies away from specifics on how blockchain tech might be applied, one section — entitled "Leveraging the Digital Transformation" — refers to the construction of "an  internal digital technology system, such as blockchain,to receive critical tracking events and key data elements from industry and regulatory partners."

Food tracing has long be held as a potential use case for so-called permissioned blockchains, and tech giants like IBM have staked out work in this area. For example, Dole has indicated its plans to roll out blockchain for its food tracing mechanisms over the next five years.