Romaine Lettuce and Blockchain, What Gives?

Here in the U.S., the Thanksgiving week started out with a major food scare because some people have died of bacteria in food.

It turned out to be in Romaine lettuce and stores have been frantically dumping all their Romaine and many related products for days now.

It isn’t as simple as tossing one kind of lettuce – many of those pre-packaged salads have or might have some of the contaminated lettuce, so they all have to be thrown out.

Even prepared sandwiches such as the submarine sandwiches sold at Walmart and most grocery chains have lettuce in them and the grocery store kind of sandwich doesn’t use shredded Iceberg lettuce the way many fast food chains do, they use another kind – sometimes Romaine.

That’s the scope of the disaster going back to the farms who won’t be selling much lettuce for a few weeks.

kale, romaine lettuce and blockchain

But what does all this have to do with Blockchain technology, the core mathematics, and computer science tool behind cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin?

Simple enough, Walmart had already decided to require the use of Blockchain technology to track all produce the gigantic chain buys.

If every wholesale grocery outlet also required the relatively easy to implement way of tracking each box of produce from farm field to store shelf the CDC and FDA would have tracked down the precise field where the contaminated greens were raised and known everyone who processed it – one or more of them accidentally contaminated the food before it went to a wholesaler.

The same sort of thing happened recently in Australia where someone was recently arrested for contaminating the food supply – that too could have been ended much faster and with far less cost to farmers and orchard owners if Blockchain technology had been applied.

Blockchain Made Simple

Here, briefly is a quick look at Blockchain technology taken from my recent booklet on the technology, “Blockchain Made Simple.”

“Chapter 1 What is blockchain?

Fundamentally, blockchain technologies are a distributed ledger scheme – that means precisely what the words indicate, a ledger, record, or block of information, documents, or events that is stored in a distributed fashion.

In other words, blockchain is a record or database consisting of blocks of data that is kept in multiple places, with copies of the file folder, but with exact provably identical copies of the folder itself spread across multiple locations, all of which hold the complete record, are synchronized, contain a complete history of the elements of each block, and are therefore identical.

The records can only be modified by someone with permission, that is, who has the encryption key necessary to access the data.

A record kept in multiple locations is MORE secure than one kept in only one place.
Not only that but when any alteration is made to the ledger that change is also traceable and provable.

For example, if a Bitcoin is spent that fact is recorded in all the records about that unit of value.

Blockchain technology was initially developed for the currency known as Bitcoin but can, will, and already has been applied to business activities including supply chain management, traditional financial transactions, stock brokerage, enhancing food safety, and assisting in epidemiological disease studies (Centers for Disease Control) as well as humanitarian efforts (United Nations).

The correct way of looking at blockchain is as a distributed database with records guaranteed by consensus algorithms. That gets a bit complex, so it is covered in another chapter of this booklet. For practical purposes you don’t need to know any more about consensus algorithms than that they work and that they guarantee that all copies of a particular ledger are always kept identical.”

That is probably enough for most people but if you run a business you need to know more. For more about how the technology works, in a non-technical way, see:

Blockchain Made Simple – a Non-Technical Explanation: Harvard Business Review says blockchain could reshape the economy. Kindle Edition by John McCormick (Author), Beth Goldie (Editor)” $2.99 or free for Amazon Prime members. Paperback $5.99.