Can you imagine the series of emotions that I went through when I read that one in five vanilla ice-creams has neither vanilla, cream or even milk in it?
I'll lay it out for you. Firstly I was outraged. Despite the whole horsemeat-in-a-burger thing, we seem to have learnt precisely nothing about the high expectations around food provenance, the erosion of trust in food supply chains and the fact that you just can't expect to get away with this sort of thing without a national newspaper noticing. One of the guilty parties was Tesco...yes them off of the horsemeat scandal...wasn't £300M being wiped off its market value enough of a reminder? Apparently not.
When the outrage had passed, I actually felt extremely smug. Having turned vegan a year ago, I was really quite pleased that those still eating the frozen milk of exploited cows weren't even getting what they thought was frozen milk after all! HA! Take that milk thieves!
After that childish outburst I then realised that in fact I was to blame. Oh. Changes to rules around ingredients were actually made to allow more vegan alternatives onto the market and the likes of Tesco, Walls and Asda used this as an opportunity to substitute cheaper ingredients. Shame on me with my pesky vegan demands then....
I was thinking about this whole predicament while listening to the excellent John Straw at today's Disruption Summit (mark it on your calendar next year, what a great event!).
John described the key features of convergence and the personnel-less organisations that will form as a result, or so called Distributed Autonomous Organisations (DAOs). It got me thinking about how in the future, the potential defrauding of the food supply chains could be avoided all together. It goes a bit like this:
AI and big data will help make the decisions - this has obvious benefits from supplier choice and reliability through to quality assurance and making informed decisions about changes in recipes.
IoT will monitor things in real time - produce can be tracked from the field to the warehouse and quality issues or interventions of any sort flagged straight away.
AI robots will be the new chefs - they will take all the ingredients, mix them, cook them and package them without a single human hand coming anywhere near so much as a wooden spoon.
APIs will interconnect with other DAOs - with the likes of Ocado rapidly becoming its own DAO, it surely won't be long before food is planted, grown, picked, packed, processed and delivered without any human intervention, as API-driven DAOs begin to collaborate and communicate on end-to-end solutions.
Smart contracts in the Blockchain will apply governance - for me, this is the most important part; being able to say, without doubt, what is in a product and where it came from. Having automated Systems of Agreement from the likes of DocuSign, backed with Blockchain technology seems like a no brainer to add much needed transparency. It's already happening in pockets, but not within a DAO structure and it still weighed down by the legacy systems of huge international supply chains.
It remains to be seen if DAOs can bring back real vanilla ice cream to UK supermarket shelves and, frankly, I don't mind if they can't (he says, chowing down on his delicious "non-dairy frozen treat"). But whether you eat plants, meat, dairy or all three, we all deserve to know that what we're eating is what we thought we bought and perhaps the less that humans are in involved, the better.
One in five of the ice-creams examined by the consumer watchdog had none of the three ingredients shoppers might reasonably expect to find in vanilla ice-cream. Only half of the 24 surveyed contained all three traditional ingredients.