AUCKLAND/SYDNEY: Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant, is piloting a blockchain supply network to improve the transparency of Australian and New Zealand food products sold on its Tmall online marketplace.

Launched in Auckland last week, the pilot comes under the company’s Food Trust Framework initiative, which uses blockchain technology and controls, such as products tagged with a unique QR code, to boost consumer confidence in the provenance of food products shipped from Australia and New Zealand.

Blackmores, the Australian health supplements firm, and Fonterra, the New Zealand dairy group, are both participating in the trial along with Australia Post and New Zealand Post.

As reported by the Australian Financial Review, Blackmores’ odourless fish oil and Fonterra’s Anchor dairy brands are the first goods to be trialled on the network, which – if it proves successful – is expected to be rolled out globally.

Professional services firm PwC has also been involved in the project and it has estimated that 40% of food companies find food fraud difficult to detect with current methods, while 39% think their products are easy to counterfeit.

And in further evidence of the scale of the problem, Interpol announced last week that a four-month global operation had dismantled nearly 50 criminal networks which sought to profit from the sale of fake or unhygienic food and drink.

In China, an intelligence-led operation targeting substandard food supplements and falsified medicines being sold online resulted in the arrest of more than 20 suspects, the international law enforcement agency reported.

Commenting on the Alibaba initiative, Alvin Liu, the company’s general manager of Tmall Import & Export, said: “Food fraud is a significant global challenge, particularly with the growing complexity of supply chains.

“In response, we have created a coordinated, world-leading and robust framework that involves stakeholders from across the supply chain to improve visibility and enhance the confidence of both end consumers and merchants.”

Sourced from Australian Financial Review, Interpol; additional content by WARC staff