Super Cities №140 — Lettuce and Blockchains

Brendan Hart

One Big Thing

Tracking Food Safety

Walmart Inc., in a letter to be issued Monday to suppliers, will require its direct suppliers of lettuce, spinach and other greens to join its food-tracking blockchain by Jan. 31.

Hart’s Comment

Lettuce is disgusting.

Not the taste. But the germs. It’s like a vegetable version of a dollar bill, passed from one person to another without regard for its final destination.

Starting next year, Walmart will require its lettuce supply chain to register operations on blockchain. In theory, this requirement will isolate contamination, increase transparency, and provide a better, cheaper product to consumers.

Until then, I still won’t know where my lettuce has been, who has handled it, or how it has been transported.

Yet lettuce is just a commodity. The same lessons can be applied to the clothes we wear, the devices we use, the jewelry we buy, and the vitamins we take.

Some companies — Everlane, an e-commerce leader, frames this as an ethical issue — have used operational transparency as a selling point.

I think there is something to that. I may not have to use blockchain to track a product, but in a world of ubiquitous technology, some transparency — who, what, where — would be nice.

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