Is Food Purchased Online Safe?
Source：Speciality Food Association
From：Taiwan Trade Center, New York
Each panelist talked about her or his company’s approach to food safety. Gmunder said that Blue Apron offers 50 menu options per week, with 350 ingredients. Seventy percent of the ingredients are sourced directly. At Blue Apron’s two SQF fulfillment centers, ingredients are stored in five separate temperature-controlled coolers, then packaged for delivery to protect safety and maximize shelf life. Blue Apron also provides customers with storage instructions to keep food safe.
Grubhub’s De Smeth said that it is simply a “package carrier,” with 33 million active diners in the U.S. The food is sealed at the restaurant; the app shows the length of time between restaurant pickup and delivery. She said, “Regulation needs to be on the restaurant side.”
Amazon uses an AI-based Product Risk Evaluation Tool to determine each food’s risk potential. Ooton said, “Our food safety strategy relies on technology. Our goal is to prevent problems, not to react to them.”
Kroger has 2,800 retail stores, 33 manufacturing facilities, and a last-mile delivery relationship with consumers. Popoola said that designated fulfillment centers are kept at 34 degrees F. with freezers at -11 degrees F. All food is delivered in 34-degree company-owned vans. Kroger has 25 food safety and regulatory compliance policies and does monthly internal food safety audits. Popoola did express concern about the safety of food in the last mile, observing “delivery services are not food companies.”
Instacart’s Wijesekera stressed that its shoppers are trained to shop safely, such as picking shelf-stable before dairy products or frozen food. Delivery routes are optimized by AI to minimize drive time.
Labeling and Allergens
FDA, state, and local regulatory officials addressed concerns regarding information that consumers receive when purchasing online. Susan Mayne, director of FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, said, “The issue is the labeling of food and how that is different online. FDA needs to collaborate with industry to develop new business models that keep consumers informed.”
Labeling regulations pre-date online purchasing, pointed out Claudine Kavanaugh of CFSAN. “There is little consistency in how labeling information is presented online,” she said. “Consumers cannot locate the information quickly and sometimes not at all.” The question is whether to require standardized formats online that show information such as ingredient listing, country of origin, and allergens.
Officials also expressed concerns about cross-contamination and allergens in the B2C model.
Public comment closed on November 20, 2021. Based on information presented at the Summit and the comments, FDA will determine its approach to regulating food sold through ecommerce.