Counterfeit eggs and shrimps, sand sold as pepper and colored sugar water as apple juice. The scandals surrounding food fraud are becoming increasingly bizarre, sometimes concerning complete products, sometimes partial. Research has shown that 43% of American salmon is incorrectly labeled, 70% of the “Italian Extra Virgin” olive oil that is not at all, and that the chicken on the Subway consists of only 50% chicken meat. In China alone, more than half a million security breaches were discovered and died worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), nearly 500,000 people died last year.

In the Netherlands, too, our trust is constantly being damaged, by the “horse steaks” and constant stream of revelations by Dutch programs such as the Keuringsdienst van Waarde on “fake” sweet mashed potatoes and liquorish.

I was therefore not surprised that various studies show, that consumers no longer trust food, its producers and sellers. In the Netherlands, according to the FNLI, more than 75% of consumers mistrust their daily meal and its ingredients and think that 30% of the labels on food are incorrect. Not to mention the various quality marks, such as Fairtrade and Beterleven. Combined with the fact that consumers are starting to live more consciously, there is increasing pressure on food producers to ensure more openness and transparency.

It is not only food scandals that cause a lot of deaths. Unfortunately every year, the number of people dying from fake medicines worldwide is growing fast. In Africa alone, the WHO calculated that 1 out of 10 medicines sold is fake, causing more than 100,000 deaths a year in the continent. According to the OECD, the fake product industry has now reached 500 billion worldwide and financed, among other things, the terrorist attacks in Madrid in 2014, which claimed the lives of 191 people. In his manual, the terrorist organization Al Qaeda even recommended selling fake products to finance terrorist cells. The European Union recently calculated that 5% of imported products are counterfeit.

Trust is one of the most important parts of our society, which ensures that it continues to function. It is the glue that holds our world together and the cement of the foundation that sustains relationships and from which businesses can grow and thrive. Relationships between individuals, but also with organizations and governments. It ensures that we want to be part of something, invest talent, time and effort somewhere and do just that little bit more. Even though it is difficult to describe, we feel very clear when it is gone, with all its consequences.

without trust we cannot stand’’

Transparency & Trust

One of the key reasons why I am so incredibly enthusiastic about blockchain technology, is that it can revolutionize supply chains and in many areas can restore consumer confidence through transparency about the chain. Trust whether the product is genuine, whether it contains the ingredients it promises, but also by providing insight into where the product comes from and under what circumstances it was made. In the Netherlands, supermarket Albert Heijn is already doing this with her orange juice, supermarket Jumbo with the talapia fillet and spice distributor Verstegen with her nutmeg. Many companies worldwide have put all their products on the blockchain; Bitcanna (where I am the CEO) does this with cannabis products, Nike with her shoes (CryptoKicks), Louis Vuitton with her bags, Porsche with her cars, DeBeers with diamonds and there are also several startups that deal with gold, medicines, clothing and wine put on the blockchain. According to Juniper research, this alone can save the food industry $ 31 billion.

This is not just about simply having consumers verify whether the product is genuine, according to Capgemini research, 89% of companies do so because of the efficiency benefits and associated cost savings that Albert Heijn and Carrefour have already made public. The transparency also gives the consumer a good idea of how the product is produced. According to Unilever’s CMO, this is not only important to map out the sustainability of the company and product, but consumers are also much more likely to purchase a product if they understand the production process.

The WWF, for example, uses its “bait to plate” project, through RIFD chips, to make it clear whether certain tuna has been sustainably caught or not, and supermarket chain Carrefour provides a glimpse into the chicken coop. If you stand in front of the shelf and you choose organic chicken meat, then you also want to be sure that this is it, for that higher price, right?

Personally, I find the possibility of mapping chains better, especially interesting because the waste of food, for example, can be prevented beautifully. In 2020, we still throw away one third of our food globally and blockchain technology already ensures that this is greatly reduced with its transparency. In many other areas too, it ensures that consumers regain confidence. In governments by reducing corruption within elections and land ownership, in the media by combating “fake news” and various other matters. The technology certainly does not provide a solution to all the problems in this world, but in various areas, it is busy reducing one of the most important parts of our society; trust.

Jan Scheele is active in the web3 (blockchain, crypto, NFTs, DeFi) industry since 2013. Besides (former) CEO of a web3 scaleup and founder of an advisory boutique (working for governments, family offices and several multinationals), he is Digital Leader at the World Economic Forum and Board Member at the Blockchain Netherlands Foundation (BCNL). He is writing, consulting, speaking and training regularly about everything web3, all over the world. Furthermore, he is currently finalizing his book about the rise and global impact of blockchain technology.