FDA Considering Adopting Blockchain Technology to 'Track and Trace' Food Recalls

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every year one out of six Americans - or 48 million people - get sick from germs in food. Out of those millions, about 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die. The germs behind the food contamination include listeria, salmonella, E. coli and cyclospora.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is currently dealing with an E. coli outbreak found on contaminated romaine lettuce. The FDA says forty-three people in twelve states have been infected with the outbreak strain since October. Although the outbreak has now been narrowed down to six counties in California, it has taken weeks to determine the source. The problem of how to quickly trace the origin of contaminated food has pushed the FDA to pursue blockchain-based solutions.

Dr. Laura Gieraltowski, head of the CDC’s foodborne outbreak response team, told NBC the current process is difficult and time-consuming. “Grocery stores might not keep the box that has the labels from the distribution center was or where the grower was,” stated Dr. Gieraltowski. This contributes to an overall lack of records making it difficult to track where the food came from.

“We are in a challenging position in that we have not been able to fully isolate it to one specific grower or region to issue a mandatory recall,” FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb told NBC News. Gottlieb hopes the FDA's recent hiring of Frank Yiannas, Walmart’s vice president of food safety, as deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, will help push the agency towards blockchain-based solutions to tracking food contamination.  “One of his specific areas of expertise is the development of blockchain technology for track and trace."

A blockchain could serve as a ledger to track every head of lettuce, or box of fruit, from farm to store to restaurant to consumer. “We’d like to link the outbreak back to a specific grower, a specific farm, a specific distributor," Gottlieb said.

NBC notes that Walmart itself is working on getting its food suppliers to adopt IBM's computer technology so they can implement blockchain solutions. If this solution works for Walmart and other food producers future outbreaks of germs might be dealt with more quickly and efficiently. Food products would be labeled and scanned through their entire journey. In the event of an outbreak, officials would be able to locate the source of contamination and warn consumers faster.

The Swiss Warm to Crypto Investments

The Swiss are shifting more focus to cryptocurrency investments. This is according to a survey taken on behalf of Migros Bank, which revealed that a growing proportion of Swiss residents are invested or actively looking to invest in cryptocurrencies.

The survey which was conducted by market research institute Intervista showed that 7% of savers between the age of 18-55 already hold cryptocurrencies such as ether and bitcoin. Even more encouraging was the finding that 7% of those aged between 30 and 55 plan to extend their crypto portfolios in the future.

Unsurprisingly, the survey found younger participants to be the most bullish on the long term prospect of crypto. According to 13%, aged between 18 and 29, cryptocurrencies will become more "important" in the future.

Less extraordinary were the results of the older generation. Per the survey, respondents aged over 55 were much less likely to own cryptocurrencies, and only 0.5% thought that it was a worthwhile long term investment. 

Switzerland Ups the Ante on Crypto Regs

This uptick in demand for cryptocurrency comes just after Switzerland imposes more stringent crypto regulations. 

Jumping off recommendations issued within both the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) guidance and the EU's 5th anti-money laundering directive (5AMLD), the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority, or FINMA, recently opted to tighten their travel rule.

The rule, which requires crypto firms to disclose customer information for transfers above $1,000, was initially set by FINMA at a threshold of $5,000 (5,000 CHF) but has since lessened to just $1,000 per the FATF and 5AMLD directives. 

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