Editor's Note: This story was updated Sept. 9, 2021, to include a quote from Frank Yiannas, deputy commissioner for food policy and response.
SILVER SPRING, Md. — The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a Federal Register Notice to formally announce a three-day public meeting to discuss the safety of foods sold online and delivered directly to consumers.
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, 2021. The summit is designed to help the agency improve its understanding of how human and animal 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, convening this summit is a goal set in FDA’s New Era of Smarter Food Safety blueprint. The number of consumers ordering food online has been steadily increasing over the years, but it has skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to reports of consumer buying patterns. 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.
The FDA intends to use what we learn 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 COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for the FDA to help ensure that foods ordered online and delivered directly to consumers are safe to eat and not at risk of contamination, said Frank Yiannas, deputy commissioner for food policy and response. "We said in the New Era of Smarter Food Safety blueprint that we would hold a summit to address the potential safety vulnerabilities of these foods, especially during the critical 'last mile' of delivery.
"That’s exactly what we’re doing. The FDA recently announced that we will hold a virtual public meeting on Oct. 19-21 entitled The FDA New Era of Smarter Food Safety Summit on E-Commerce: Ensuring the Safety of Foods Ordered Online and Delivered Directly to Consumers. This is a critical first step in a broader effort to address the safety of foods as new business models emerge. Addressing this issue is especially important now because so many of us are getting our food this way, whether we’re looking for convenience or just staying at home more often.
Over the years, consumers have increasingly been ordering their food online, whether it’s from a grocery store, a restaurant, or another kind of retail establishment. However, during the pandemic the number of Americans ordering food for delivery has skyrocketed, according to reports of consumer spending. As the food system continues to rapidly change, including how foods are produced and delivered, meetings like this will help the FDA keep pace with that change and fulfill our mission to protect public health.”
The summit is an opportunity for FDA to further its collaboration on food safety with federal, state, local and tribal regulatory partners, and a broad array of stakeholders, including industry, consumers, consumer and public health organizations and academia.
Topics for discussion during the summit include:
- Types of B2C e-commerce models (e.g., produce and meal kit subscription services, ghost kitchens, dark stores)
- 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