FSA trying into dangers from on-line meals gross sales

According to the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in the UK, efforts to quantify the level of risk posed by food sold online are still at an early stage.

In a paper presented at the latest board meeting, the agency acknowledged that limitations in the existing regulatory regime are being revealed as some new businesses are being set up online and willingly or not register as food businesses and therefore avoid inspection by local authorities for safety .

Problems identified so far include unregistered businesses and a lack of standardization when selling groceries online. The FSA’s initial assessment is that this is a relatively low risk and options to address it are emerging.

Delivered groceries are the smallest sub-sector of the foodservice market, but the fastest growing. Aggregators such as Just Eat, Uber Eats and Deliveroo have the majority of UK market share. To understand and assess consumer risks from online grocery sales and to identify regulatory gaps, the FSA speaks to these aggregators, Amazon and Google.

progress so far
There are also other ways to offer food for sale, such as B. Social media sites, online marketplaces, messaging apps and other web-based platforms. The topic has gained increased attention during the corona pandemic.

The topic of selling homemade groceries on social media was covered years ago by trade magazine The Grocer. The Natasha Allergy Research Foundation raised the issue with the FSA following a BBC inquiry in 2020 and again in early 2021. Both times, the agency said such sales of homemade food were “concerning.”

An example of the FSA’s work to understand the number of businesses trading but not registered using the Google Places API. FSA staff surveyed two regions with different demographics and identified about 7 percent of trading firms that may not have been registered. However, it only includes companies with a physical address and not those trading through online marketplaces.

To fill this gap, the FSA seeks to understand the size of the businesses operating in these marketplaces, in response to anecdotal evidence of a large volume of food being sold through this route.

Officials at the FSA and local authorities are aware that food is being sold and shared online in multiple languages, potentially without traceability or safety checks. The ease of getting started with selling groceries online allows businesses to get set up quickly and easily reach a wide range of potential customers.

The agency works with an unnamed security technology company that can identify which online channels or platforms are used most often and what types of products are sold.

The FSA has also commissioned a survey into consumer attitudes towards buying food for sale online, with a further report to the Board expected in 2022.

Update of food regulations
The focus on online is part of the agency’s Achieving Business Compliance (ABC) program, which seeks to modernize food regulations.

A pilot looks at an enterprise-level approach. Currently, multi-store supermarkets are all inspected at operational level by individual local authorities, although some have a relationship with a primary authority. The project examines how the whole business could be regulated as a single entity. Talks are underway with Aldi, Morrisons, Tesco, Waitrose and Marks and Spencer.

Expected benefits include reduced duplication of some elements of local authority inspection work, which frees up Council resources to focus on higher-risk companies, and improved oversight.

It is planned to test new approaches with a number of companies in 2022-23. The initial focus is on food hygiene, but later food standards could also be considered.

The FSA said the project would not lower the standards that companies must meet and self-regulation is not being considered. The aim is to ensure compliance at the corporate level rather than at the individual site level.

The British Retail Consortium, the Food and Drink Federation, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health and eBay are among the groups receiving an overview of the scheme.

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