Another Massive Romaine Lettuce Illness Outbreak… Where Are You Blockchain?
In yet another massive foodborne illness alert, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has issued a public health alert, this time regarding concerns of contamination of romaine lettuce with the Cyclospora parasite. More than 163 people in 10 states having gotten sick from Cyclospora in this past month. Will this latest outbreak be the push needed to adopt blockchain into the food supply chain?
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Another Foodborne Illness Outbreak Alert
According to the July 30th, 2018, update from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), there are concerns about contamination with the parasite cyclospora in romaine lettuce.
This alert was followed on July 31st with an emergency outbreak announcement from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stating that they are investigating a multistate outbreak of Cyclospora illnesses, likely linked to salads from fast food chains.
Of particular importance is the fact that there is another ongoing investigation since June by the FDA of a multistate outbreak of Cyclospora illnesses linked to Del Monte vegetable trays.
This latest romaine lettuce outbreak further highlights the fragility and inefficiencies in the current food supply chain, as there is still not a fast way to track the source of where this romaine lettuce came from.
Retailers Take Action By Throwing Out All Romaine Lettuce Products
With the FDA reporting that last month 163 infected people were traced to McDonald’s restaurants in ten states, McDonald’s has been actively communicating about the situation with the public, and has taken active steps to remove potentially affected salads from its distribution centers and over 3,000 restaurants.
This means that over 3,000 restaurants have had to remove and dispose of food products which have not been confirmed to be contaminated since there is no efficient way to track the provenance of the romaine lettuce that was infected with Cyclospora.
This massive outbreak has not only affected McDonalds.
The FDA has issued a full list of recalled romaine lettuce products. These products are sold across a wide range of retailers including Walgreen’s, Trader Joe’s and Kroger.
Blockchain Could Have Helped… But It’s Not Widely Implemented Yet
In a call to move forward the implementation of blockchain technology onto the food supply chain, Frank Yiannas, VP of Food Safety for Walmart, Tweeted out a statement calling for the immediate adoption of blockchain technology in the food supply chain.
Another romaine outbreak, this time with a parasite, Cyclospora. Once again, we DO NOT know where the romaine lettuce was grown or came from. One step up & one step back traceability is outdated. We need real-time, end-to-end #blockchain traceability NOW.
– @frankyiannis Aug 2, 2018
Yiannas has been a powerful voice for the adoption of blockchain technology of the food supply chain, and has proven results to back his statements.
A food supply chain tracking system that he has developed with IBM for Walmart, has reduced the time it takes to track the source of a produce item from over six days to less than three seconds.
By using blockchain technology and tracking the source of a potential foodborne illness outbreak in a matter of a few seconds, instead of several weeks, many people can be spared from illness. Additionally, millions of dollars can be saved by retailers by not throwing out good, uncontaminated, food which is perfectly safe to eat.
Do you think this will be the last widespread alert around romaine lettuce or merely the beginning of a bigger problem? How do you feel about knowing that there are blockchain-based solutions that could help during these outbreaks, but the CDC and other government agencies have not implemented them? Let us know in the comments below.
Image via Wikimedia Commons