A number of leading food companies have announced a partnership with IBM to use blockchain collaboration technology to prevent food contamination in the supply chain.

Companies, including Dole, Golden State Foods, Kroger, McCormick and Company, Nestlé, Tyson Foods and Walmart, will work with IBM to identify areas of the supply chain that can benefit from blockchain technology.

According to the World Health Organisation, 10% of people fall ill due to food poisoning every year, while 400,000 across the globe die from contamination.

These figures can be prevented with more information and traceability of food products in the supply chain as currently, it takes weeks to identify a point of contamination, which leads to further illness, loss of sales and food waste – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it took two months to identify the farm source of contamination following a contraction of salmonella in papaya fruits.

IBM’s blockchain platform will help address this problem with supply chain transparency. Using the application all participants in the supply chain – growers, suppliers, processors, distributors, retailers, regulators and consumers – can access information regarding the origin of the food. This means food providers can use blockchain to trace contaminated products quickly, in order to remove them from the store shelves.

“As an advocate for greater transparency in the food system to benefit customers, Walmart looks forward to expanding on our initial work by collaborating with others to accelerate exploration on how this technology can be used as a more effective food traceability and food safety tool,” said Frank Yiannas, vice president, food safety, Walmart.

Trials in China and US with Walmart proved the retail could track a product from the farm through the supply chain to the retail shelf in seconds, instead of days, weeks or even months.

Yiannas added: “Blockchain technology enables a new era of end-to-end transparency in the global food system – equivalent to shining a light on food ecosystem participants that will further promote responsible actions and behaviours. It also allows all participants to share information rapidly and with confidence across a strong trusted network. This is critical to ensuring that the global food system remains safe for all.”