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Walmart, JD.com Back Blockchain Food Tracking Effort in China

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Retail giants Walmart and JD.com are among several companies backing a new blockchain effort in China focused on food safety and traceability.

Along with Tsinghua University National Engineering Laboratory for E-Commerce Technologies and IBM, the four parties have created the Blockchain Food Safety Alliance, which will seek to connect businesses along the food supply chain within the world’s most populous country.

The idea, according to statements, is to develop “a standards-based method of collecting data about the origin, safety and authenticity of food” among the parties involved, with blockchain serving as a technological basis for recording that information in real time.

For Walmart, the effort represents an expansion of its previous work in the food supply chain area. In October 2016, the retailer unveiled that it was working with Tsinghua and IBM in an effort to track pork products, a process that the company called “very encouraging” during a presentation earlier this year.

“As a global advocate for enhanced food safety, Walmart looks forward to deepening our work with IBM, Tsinghua University, JD and others throughout the food supply chain. Through collaboration, standardization, and adoption of new and innovative technologies, we can effectively improve traceability and transparency and help ensure the global food system remains safe for all,” Frank Yiannas, vice president of food safety and health for Walmart, said of the new group.

The inclusion of JD.com – a business-to-consumer e-commerce platform that claimed more than 200 million users as of September – is a notable one, given its overall footprint in China.

And reports that JD.com intends to import billions of dollars worth of food over the next several years would, in theory, create a large inventory of products to track.

“Throughout the world, and particularly in China, consumers increasingly want to know how their food is sourced, and JD is dedicated to using technology to promote complete transparency,” Yongli Yu, president of JD’s supply chain research unit, said in a statement.

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