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09/07/2021

FDA Turns Eye on Food Safety in E-Commerce

Virtual summit to identify potential vulnerabilities, including those in last-mile delivery
Marian Zboraj
Digital Editor
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FDA Turns Eye on Food Safety in E-Commerce
The number of consumers ordering food online has been steadily increasing over the years, but it has skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has driven the popularity of using various forms of food delivery, including restaurant meals, produce and meal kit subscriptions, alcohol services, and of course, online groceries. To ensure that these deliveries don't pose a public health threat, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will hold a three-day public meeting next month to discuss the safety of foods sold online and delivered directly to consumers.

According to 2021 Food and Health Survey conducted by the International Food Information Council, 72% of Americans said that the pandemic is changing the way they eat and prepare food. This study also showed that 42% of consumers are shopping for groceries online at least monthly.

The FDA New Era of Smarter Food Safety Summit on E-Commerce: Ensuring the Safety of Foods Ordered Online and Delivered Directly to Consumers will take place virtually Oct. 19-21. The free summit is designed to help the agency improve its understanding of how foods are sold through business-to-consumer (B2C) e-commerce models across the United States and globally. 

Because of the increasing number of consumers ordering their foods online, this summit aligns with FDA’s New Era of Smarter Food Safety blueprint. The blueprint goal is to convene a summit to identify courses of action to address potential food safety vulnerabilities, including those that may arise in the last mile of delivery.

Topics for discussion during the summit include: 

  • Types of B2C e-commerce models.
  • Safety risks associated with foods sold through B2C e-commerce.
  • Standards of care used by industry to control these safety risks.
  • Types of delivery models (e.g., third-party delivery, autonomous delivery models). 
  • Regulatory approaches to food sold through B2C e-commerce, including challenges and gaps that need to be addressed.
  • Labeling of foods sold through B2C e-commerce.

The summit is an ideal opportunity for the food retail industry to collaborate on food safety with the FDA and other stakeholders.  

During the three-day event, there will be opportunities for public comment each day. Participants who wish to speak during the public comment sessions must register by Oct. 8. To register, click here. In addition, FDA will open a public docket to receive additional comments on these topics. Public comments can be submitted electronically to www.regulations.gov using the following Docket ID, FDA-2021-N-0929, now through Nov 20.

The FDA intends to use what it learns during the public meeting, and from comments submitted to the Federal Register, to help determine what actions, if any, may be needed to keep consumers safe.

The safety of food delivery is also getting a boost from the Partnership for Food Safety Education. The nonprofit organization recently launched a national campaign to help food delivery users ensure the safety of the foods they order. Supported by Instacart, Prep Yourself: Food Is on the Way is the first national food safety campaign specifically targeting users of food delivery services, providing free resources that encourage safe food handling at home and educate consumers on what to consider when ordering from food delivery services.

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