Ireland Takes Part in EU-Wide Internet Sweep of Food Sold Online

Friday, 23 February 2018

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) is encouraging food businesses to read its guidance on selling and advertising food online following the publication of the results of an EU-wide coordinated control programme which identified offers of food sold online that did not comply with EU legislation. The European Commission’s programme, which was carried out during September 2017, focused on food supplements with medicinal claims which are forbidden to be placed on the market and certain novel foods which are not authorised in the EU.

Twenty-five Member States, along with Switzerland and Norway, participated in the coordinated control programme, checking 1,077 websites which identified 779 offers for sale of food which did not comply with EU legislation. Ireland identified 17 offers for unauthorised novel foods and 6 offers of food supplements making unpermitted claims. All non-compliances resulted in follow up action at national level and/or were reported to other Member States or Third countries via the European Commission.

The food control authorities were asked to search the internet for websites which offer certain unauthorised food products for sale to the consumers in their country. The food products in question were the following four novel foods:

  • Agmatine (4-aminobutyl) guanidine sulfate
  • Acacia rigidula
  • Epimedium grandiflorum
  • Hoodia gordonii

The authorities also searched for food supplements where the information online claimed the property of preventing, treating or curing bone and joint diseases or referred to such properties with disease-related expressions, pictures or symbols. Such ‘medicinal’ claims are not permitted to be made about food.

Dr Pamela Byrne, Chief Executive, FSAI commented on the report findings: “The high number of non-compliant offers is a clear sign that e-commerce control across Europe needs to be strengthened. Whether purchasing from a physical store or online, consumers have the right to buy safe food which does not mislead. Furthermore, businesses selling food online must abide by the same rules as their bricks and mortar counterparts. To strengthen controls in Ireland, the FSAI has established a cross-agency working group focusing on online sales of food and last year published information for food businesses selling or advertising food online. I strongly encourage all food businesses to take the time to read this information and revise their online offers, as necessary. Inspectors are putting more focus on reviewing the online activity of food businesses. We continue to cooperate with our colleagues in other Member States regarding online sales of non-compliant food via the European Commission and also fully participate in working groups at EU level.”

The European Commission’s report can be viewed online and the FSAI is encouraging food businesses to read and review its guidance on selling and advertising food online on its website: