Food safety, the key to trust


The recent food and health crises have eroded consumer trust. Consumers are now demanding more transparency. Technology such as the blockchain used by Carrefour will help to increase the level of safety throughout the food chain. The objective is clear: to regain trust through transparency.

In 2000, the member states of the World Health Organisation (WHO) acknowledged that food safety is a vital aspect of public health. It is in fact a very serious global problem: one in ten people worldwide fall ill as a result of having consumed contaminated food.

The Economist Business Unit ranks France second in Europe for food quality and safety. In recent years, however, a number of food scandals and health crises (“mad cow” crisis, H1N1 virus etc.) have greatly eroded consumer trust.

While technological progress has helped to increase the level of safety, industry-wide transparency can also boost trust.

Ensuring food safety is in fact a process in which responsibilities are shared from beginning to end: production (farmers, fishermen, livestock farmers), preparation and/or processing (cooperatives, dairy industries, abattoirs, meat- and fish-based products, animal feed), transport (sea, waterway, air, road and rail, border controls on imported or exported foodstuffs) and distribution (storage, contract and commercial catering, shops, super stores).

Who deals with food safety?

Operators in the food sector are primarily responsible for the products they sell. They have a duty to manufacture their products in healthy environments using suitable safeguards. They are frequently inspected by regulatory authorities in each country, in France by the Ministry of Agriculture (Directorate General for Food). 

What do the inspections cover?

The initial inspection relates to the use of appropriate measures to ensure food safety. Also inspected are compliance with hygiene standards relating to the premises concerned (such as animal cleanliness and compliance with cold chain requirements) and the presence of any contaminants (i.e. prohibited and anabolic substances, veterinary medicines, environmental contaminants, harmful biological agents such as salmonella and listeria etc.) in foodstuffs of animal and plant origin, and in animal feed. 

Samples are taken and analysed by national reference or other authorised laboratories. 

What can consumers do?

Consumers must get into the habit of using a number of simple, common sense measures to significantly reduce their risk of contracting food-borne diseases. Food hygiene is governed by three main principles: avoiding the contamination of food, limiting/slowing down the spread of contaminating germs and destroying pathogenic flora.

What role does retail play?

The safety of food is dependent on a whole chain of operators including - of course - retailers, of which Carrefour is one.

The demand for transparence and traceability is now a core issue for all consumers and the blockchain is a thoroughly effective, reliable and innovative solution that meets this requirement.

That is why Carrefour has launched Europe’s first food blockchain to provide consumers with total transparency as to the quality and traceability of its products. We have implemented this technology in France, in the Carrefour Quality Line of free-range chickens raised in Auvergne without the use of antibiotics. The technology is currently under development Belgium and China, and will be extended into Italy next month.

A consumer wanting more details about a free-range chicken, for example, can use their smartphone to scan the QR code on the product. They will obtain a range of precise data over the Internet: the chicken’s date of birth, its place of origin, the breeder’s name, the types of food it ate during its lifetime, veterinary monitoring, the conditions and date of its slaughter and details of its transport to the store where it is on sale.

By the end of 2018, Carrefour will have extended this system to a further eight lines in France (eggs, cheese, milk, oranges, tomatoes, honey, mince meat, Norwegian salmon) as part of its “Carrefour 2022” transformation plan.


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