Selling or Advertising Food Online? New Guide Published

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Given the upward growth in food being sold and promoted online, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) today published a new guide to assist food businesses comply with their legislative requirements in order to safeguard consumer health and rights at all times. Selling or Advertising Food Online* sets out the information that must be provided to consumers by food businesses promoting or selling food online via websites or social media. It is the first guide that specifies what a business must do to comply with the law to ensure that consumers get the same information online, before making a purchase, as they would if they bought the product in a store. The legislation around labelling, advertising, health claims, nutrition claims and allergen declarations apply to foods sold online, as well as over the counter.

The FSAI’s guide reminds food businesses of the mandatory food information that they must provide to their customers (before they complete their purchase) and covers the types of claims that can and cannot be made about food. It also highlights other legal requirements such as: registering a food business; temperature control during delivery; having a food traceability system in place; and informing customers about product recalls. The requirements to provide allergen information for non-prepacked food sold online – such as that sold from takeaways and supermarket/deli counters – is also highlighted.

According to Dr Pamela Byrne, CEO, FSAI, online shopping in the Irish grocery sector is at €170m per annum and whilst it represents just 1.2% of overall sales, this figure is expected to rise rapidly over the next few years to reach 4.5% by 2021. In addition, the promotion and advertising of food is extensive through online advertising and social media channels.

    “No matter how a consumer buys a food product, be it in-store or online, the food laws apply equally to both transactions. Consumers have the right to expect the product is safe to eat and that they also have access to the details of the product so that they can make a decision based on accurate information. Anyone selling or advertising food online is classed as a food business owner and they must comply with relevant legislation. This guide assists them do so as it sets out all the various areas they must comply with. We also have our Advice Line which is manned by experts who can go through the various legal obligations and the provisions that they place on food businesses in the interest of protecting consumers.”

    “This new guide comes at a time when selling or advertising food online is on the increase. The bottom line is that if a food business is selling food online the law requires that consumers have the same information about the food product before the purchase is concluded as they would have if they bought it in-store. The law also prohibits food businesses from making claims about food online, that they would not be allowed to make on a food label. By understanding the regulatory processes and rules, food businesses can provide the necessary information so that consumers can make an informed choice at the time of purchase,” said Dr Byrne.

The FSAI states that the food law enforcement community will be adjusting their way of working to police foods advertised or offered for sale online, as well as those advertised and sold from physical premises. It urged food business and internet platforms and third parties hosts to ensure they are providing the information as required by law. The FSAI is a member of a European Commission working group which was established to ensure a coordinated approach across EU Member States and non-EU countries regarding internet sales of food.

The guide makes it clear that if a food business sells or advertises food online, they are responsible for the food information provided to their customer and must comply with relevant food law. The guide goes on to highlight key areas which food businesses selling or advertising online should address, including:

  • Registering your food business
  • Provision of food information to consumers
  • Displaying mandatory food information
  • Making claims about food
  • Temperature control
  • Traceability
  • Product recall
  • Notifying food supplements to the FSAI
  • Consumer protection law


*Food includes alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages

Selling or Advertising Food Online