FDA seeks comment on food labeling information in e-commerce

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is requesting comment on the availability of nutrition, ingredient, and allergen information online for packaged foods sold through online grocery shopping platforms.  FDA explains that this effort is aimed at improving consumer access to consistent and accurate food labeling information in e-commerce.  Comments are due July 24, 2023.

FDA Information Request

As previewed in the White House Strategy for Nutrition, Health, and Hunger,1 FDA is requesting information on packaged food labeling information currently available through online grocery shopping platforms, with the stated goal of improving dietary patterns by empowering consumers with “accurate, informative, and accessible food labeling.”2  The agency intends to use information gathered from this request, as well as comments previously gathered from the 2021 E-Commerce Summit3 to help improve consumer access to consistent and accurate information, with a focus on nutrition, ingredient, and allergen information.  FDA notes that it is not focusing on ready-to-eat meals like salad or hot food bar items ordered online. 

As background, FDA notes that consumers are increasingly turning to online platforms to purchase groceries.  From 2019 to 2020 the revenue generated from online grocery sales increased by 54 percent and accounted for 7.4% of all grocery sales in the United States.  Online grocery orders are projected to make up 21.5% of all U.S. grocery sales in 2023.  FDA indicates that the shift to online shopping provides an “opportunity to ensure consumers are able to find and view label information that will help them make more informed and healthier food choices.”

The FDA notice highlights the agency’s previous 2007 “Dear Manufacturer” letter4 that recommended that nutrition information and claims posted online should be consistent with FDA law and regulations.  The agency also notes that today, while some online platforms provide nutrition and ingredient information, it may not be consistently available for the same food sold by different providers, or there may be differences between information on the food package and the information made available online. 

The FDA notice includes a serious of questions aimed at both industry and consumers with respect to challenges in making certain information available on online grocery platforms, and information that consumers expect to see, respectively.  Please click here to view the full list of questions included in FDA’s request for information.

Why it Matters

The request for comments is the first step in FDA providing guidance on the provision of food labeling information on e-commerce platforms.  It will be important for FDA to receive information and examples on the types of challenges that can exist when trying to ensure such information is legible and accurate, particularly in the event of label changes, reformulations, or instances where multiple versions of the same food may be available on the marketplace at the same time.

Next Steps

Comments are due July 24, 2023.  We encourage interested companies to submit comments to FDA and are available to assist with such comments.

 

 

Authored by Brian Eyink, Veronica Colas, and Molly Mulligan

References
1 The White House, Biden-Harris Administration National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, (Sept. 2022), https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/White-House-National-Strategy-on-Hunger-Nutrition-and-Health-FINAL.pdf.
2 Food Labeling in Online Grocery Shopping; Request for Information, Docket No. FDA-2023-N-0624 (Apr. 24, 2023), https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2023-04-24/pdf/2023-08543.pdf.
3 FDA hosted the virtual meeting, “New Era of Smarter Food Safety Summit on E-Commerce: Ensuring the Safety of Foods Ordered Online and Delivered Directly to Consumers” in October of 2021.  FDA established a docket for the virtual meeting which received “limited comments that discussed food labelling issues associated with grocery foods sold through e-commerce.” See U.S. Food & Drug Administration, New Era of Smarter Food Safety Summit on E-Commerce: Ensuring the Safety of Foods Ordered Online and Delivered Directly to Consumers (Oct. 2021), https://www.fda.gov/food/workshops-meetings-webinars-food-and-dietary-supplements/new-era-smarter-food-safety-summit-e-commerce-ensuring-safety-foods-ordered-online-and-delivered.
4 U.S. Food & Drug Administration, Guidance for Industry and FDA: Dear Manufacturer Letter Regarding Food Labeling (Jan. 2007), https://www.fda.gov/regulatory-information/search-fda-guidance-documents/guidance-industry-and-fda-dear-manufacturer-letter-regarding-food-labeling.
Contacts
Brian Eyink
Partner
Washington, D.C.
Veronica Colas
Counsel
Washington, D.C.
Languages English
Countries United States

 

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