Blockchains, a crucial element of the technology that powers Bitcoin, will soon be helping food and drink companies to improve their ability to track and trace products throughout the supply chain. With major companies such as IBM, Nestlé and Walmart pushing their use, Bitcoin technology could soon be used to avert the next horse meat scandal.

Developed for Bitcoin, blockchains are a complete log that tracks the movement of Bitcoin tokens by logging owner IPs. This technology can be adapted to supply chains, keeping a receipt of where an ingredient or product has been and how it was treated. This makes individual parts of the supply answerable in the event of a scandal.

This comprehensive electronic record will be a game changer for the supply chain. Complete information about a product’s sourcing and formulation will be available in seconds. Contrast this with current supply chain tracking, which often involves information stored in different electronic formats and sometimes in handwritten notes. Suppliers can also be hesitant to share information. As a result, product contamination and recalls can take months to investigate.

Blockchains will make it far quicker for retailers to identify and withdraw contaminated products. While this technology can’t prevent product contamination, it will drastically speed up the removal of contaminated products in the market. This means fewer consumers will eat the contaminated products, and potential sources of contamination can be quickly identified and eradicated.

This development comes at a time when consumers, and not just companies, expect to have information available instantaneously. In an age when you can track your online shopping live from its distribution center to your door, consumers will struggle to understand how it can take months for a manufacturer to trace where the ingredients in their products have come from.