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U.S. food safety agency looks to blockchain to optimize export certification process: Report

Mon, 03 Feb 2020, 13:06 pm UTC

Tech giant IBM is developing a blockchain proof-of-concept (POC) for the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to help the agency look into how the technology can optimize export certification systems, CoinDesk reported.

FSIS, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is the public health regulatory agency responsible for ensuring that the United States' commercial supply of meat, poultry, and egg products is safe, wholesome, and correctly labeled and packaged. In its annual plan for 2020, FSIS had said:

“FSIS will develop a proof of concept for blockchain management as a potential mechanism for addressing export certification challenges and identifying greater efficiencies in the export certification process. FSIS will also modernize its process for supporting and overseeing foreign audits of the U.S. meat, poultry, and egg products inspection systems.”

The agency had not revealed its private sector partner at the time. In August 2019, FSIS awarded IBM a nondescript “blockchain proof-of-concept” contract and gave the export certification study to IBM last year, as per the report.

An FSIS spokesperson reportedly said that the $269,450 blockchain feasibility assessment will explore how to enhance efficiencies in the existing process, which is obstructed by regulations and has convoluted multi-country documentary requirements.

FSIS inspectors are tasked with verifying documents, stamps, shipping containers and a sample of the export item against a set of regulations. The products are then accompanied by the resulting manual and digital paper trail in transit.

The proof-of-concept will evaluate if blockchain can bring “increased immutability and visibility of critical documentation traversing across the supply chain,” the spokesperson said, adding that the agency will start by studying the “export business process.”

The spokesperson also said that this marks the first time that FSIS has sought to leverage blockchain technology. The contract will run through June of this year.

“The intent of the proof-of-concept is to identify and quantify the potential benefits [of blockchain] so that the agency can make an informed decision on the next steps,” the spokesperson said.

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