IBM, Nestle, Wal-Mart Develop Blockchain to Address Global Foodborne Disease Deaths

According to the findings in the World Health Organization’s “Estimates of the Global Burden of Foodborne Diseases,” Children under the age of 5 only make up about 9 percent of the global population but they also make up about 30 percent of global foodborne disease deaths. This is the most comprehensive report, to date, on the impact that contaminated food has on the health and well-being of people all over the planet; so this statistic is not one we should take lightly.

The report estimates the overall burden of foodborne disease caused by 31 different agents—including bacteria, viruses, parasites, and chemicals, of course—stating that as many as 600 million report illness from consuming contaminated food. To put it another way, that is about 1 in 10 people around the world (so, ten percent of the global population). And then, of these 600 million, 420,000 will die from their foodborne illness, which includes 125,000 children under the age of 5.

WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan comments, “Until now, estimates of foodborne diseases were vague and imprecise. This concealed the true human costs of contaminated food. This report sets the record straight. Knowing which foodborne pathogens are causing the biggest problems in which parts of the world can generate targeted action by the public, governments, and the food industry.”

Obviously this burden of foodborne disease is a global public health concern. As such, WHO chapters in Africa and South-East Asia have the most to overcome, as these are the regions with the highest foodborne illness incidences and death rates; and that includes deaths of children under the age of 5.

“These estimates are the result of a decade of work,” beams Dr. Kazuaki Miyagishima, “including input from more than 100 experts from around the world. They are conservative, and more needs to be done to improve the availability of data on the burden of foodborne diseases.”

The WHO Director of the Department of Food Safety and Zoonoses goes on to say, “But based on what we know now, it is apparent that the global burden of foodborne diseases is considerable, affecting people all over the world – particularly children under 5 years of age and people in low-income areas.”

With all this in mind, then, food companies including Nestle and Tyson Foods have teamed up with consumer goods company Unilever and the tech firm IBM to develop explore how a blockchain of technology could help to track food supply chains in order to improve safety. Other companies/corporations involved include: Wal-Mart, Kroger Co, and Dole Food Company, to name a few.

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