FSA Director for Wales, Information and Science, Julie Pierce, has responded to Professor Chris Elliott’s call to share what the Government is doing to regulate the online food industry.
There are concerns about how to regulate the online food industry which is growing at a rapid rate and to protect consumers from the negatives impacts food sold in this way can present. The pandemic has increased the amount of people preparing and selling food from unregistered businesses online from their homes.
The total sales that took place online was 10% higher between Mar-Aug 2020 than the previous year according to the Office of National Statistics. In total Food Store online sales rose by 79.3% in 2020.
FSA Wales are working on 3 main areas: Registration, Collaboration and Enforcement.
Registration is a legal requirement when selling food whether it is from a café in the high street or on an online platform. Sellers can be fined and imprisoned for up to 2 years for not abiding by this ruling.
Another way that the FSA are helping these companies is through their recent campaign – Here to Help. This offers support, guidance and promotes best practice for food businesses. There is also a digital ‘Register a Food Business’ tool which connects to the businesses’ local authority. There are more than 187 local authorities using the new digital register with 33,720 food businesses registering.
FSA are also working closely with key aggregators in the food sector i.e. Uber Eats, Deliveroo and Just Eat to use flagship ‘Food Hygiene Rating Scheme’ (FHRS) to determine whether they will allow a business onto their online platform. This is a way of driving up standards and a good way to attract consumers and business as a higher rating attracts more customers.
The National Food Crime Unit (NFCU) is working alongside many of the platforms to enforce rules when dangerous and illegal products are sold online. Not only will the NFCU take down such sites they also share the intelligence to assist platforms in removing or stopping these dangerous products being sold on their sites.
The aim is to estabilsh a way of monitoring and enforcing safety for both consumers and business of online food sales and platforms.