Online grocery shopping became essential during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. While many consumers have returned to the brick and mortar stores, many others have completely changed how they shop for food, opting for online shopping, whether out of convenience or for safety. The FDA has seen and recognizes this shift and even held a three-day virtual summit last month, “The FDA New Era of Smarter Food Safety Summit on E-Commerce: Ensuring the Safety of Foods Ordered Online and Delivered Directly to Consumers”, to discuss and gain insights into the world of business to consumer e-commerce involving food.
“It is now clear that this is not a trend that will be completely reversed in time but one likely to lead to a new normal in how consumers shop for food, whether it’s from restaurants, grocery stores, or companies providing meal kits and other products,” state Frank Yiannas, deputy commissioner for food policy and response at FDA and Andreas Keller, director, multi-commodity foods, Office of Food Safety at CFSAN on the FDA Voices blog. “Thus, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is actively working with partners in federal, state, and local government and industry in the U.S. and other nations, as well as with consumer advocates, to help ensure that consumers aren’t ever unwittingly trading food safety for convenience.”
During last month’s meeting, many challenges and questions came up, from how to further prevent food tampering to labeling issues, especially related to allergens, to ensuring that food safety values are shared across all parties involved in producing, transporting and selling food in the e-commerce setting.
FDA announced that it will be reviewing and assessing the information it received during the meeting and is inviting industry to submit public comments now through November 20, 2021 (Docket FDA-2021-N-0929). From there, the agency will determine the critical issues that need to be addressed first.
The daily recordings of the virtual summit are available on FDA’s website.