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How blockchain can save street food

October 18, 2020

Few Chinese people are strangers to the word “street stall.” Once, it was a place for friends to drink and chat, a comfort for ordinary people on their way home from work, and even a reflection of a city’s culture. However, in recent years, there seem to be fewer and fewer street stalls since many city managers believe that the existence of stalls ruins the city’s appearance. Luckily, the Chinese government introduced a series of policies to legalize “street stalls” in the real sense. The introduction of these has not only provided low-income families affected by the COVID-19 with means to make a living but also added a long-lost worldliness to the city.

Although the legalization of street stalls has been a boon to many unemployed families affected by the COVID-19, their existence can no longer be as haphazard as in the past. Among them, food hygiene should be considered as the top priority. In June this year, the food safety problem in the Beijing Xinfadi market triggered a new round of intensive epidemic prevention and control work in the city. It obviously renewed previous concerns the public opinions have had recently regarding food safety in such markets. And if large markets are under scrutiny, street stalls are too – so how can they improve their sourcing to avoid the blame?

Food safety is inseparable from the openness, transparency, and traceability of its supply chain information. This is where blockchain could play a part. Blockchain technology is a shared, immutable ledger for recording transactions, tracking assets, and building trust. Since the connected systems are decentralized, there is no single organization that controls everything occurring in the digital ledger. Every time a transaction or action is made in the blockchain, another block is being added to the network. However, it quickly renders until it is officially recorded. The information provided in each transaction may contain the time the transaction was made, who received it, who sent it, and how much was transferred. It’s then not difficult to find that each attribute of blockchain technology can help resolve pain points of food safety issues: opacity, inaccuracy, and lack of traceability. Nevertheless, what benefits will blockchain bring to stall owners in terms of food safety?

Firstly, once the stall owner uploads the food information to a specific blockchain, the data will be open to everyone. the transparency of information all across the food supply chain, which includes the production link, the semi-finished product processing link, the finished product processing link, the packaging link, the transportation link, etc., can provide consumers a certain degree of confidence. Secondly, since no single player can control everything or fake something occurring in the network, the authenticity and reliability of data can be guaranteed, which means consumers are able to check the exact information of food source without overly worrying. Thirdly, a blockchain is made up of blocks, each of which stores information at a certain time according to certain rules, people can easily figure out which part turns wrong. Let’s assume a scenario: a stall’s owner purchases raw materials and condiments from a market process and sells them to consumers via e-payment. Through blockchain technology, we can collect data and information on all links. Should there be a food safety issue, one can quickly locate where the problem happened and even trackback customers who already purchased the food so as to effectively react to the situation.

Although there are still some uncertainties regarding applying blockchain technology in street stalls, for instance, limited storage space within each “block” and high entry threshold for stall owners, blockchain-based solutions should be considered as the credible safety solution for street stalls. As mentioned above, the technology not only increases consumer confidence by making information transparent throughout the whole food supply chain but also helps public authorities better inspect food safety issues. Thus, with the technology maturing, we have reason to believe that blockchain will become a key enabler of a safe and resilient stall economy.


Yunhui Fang

Business Analyst – CST Lab

Capgemini China