In late October 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) held a New Era of Smarter Food Safety Summit on E-commerce: Ensuring the Safety of Foods Ordered Online and Directly Delivered to Consumers. All webinar recordings can be found here.

The summit was designed to help the agency improve its understanding of how human and animal foods are sold through business-to-consumer (or B2C, for short) e-commerce models across the U.S. and globally.

Due to the increasing number of consumers ordering their foods online, convening this summit was an important goal 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 it learned 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 summit was an opportunity for FDA to further its collaboration on food safety with its 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 included:

  • 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.

The summit included speaker presentations followed by roundtable Q&A sessions. In all of the sessions, industry representatives reiterated that they are committed to ongoing dialogue with the FDA on these issues. 

The FDA said that the summit is a first step toward improving food safety measures in e-commerce, and that the agency will explore development of regulatory strategies to fill any significant regulatory gaps.