FDA considers ‘last mile’ food safety concerns as consumers adopt e-commerce, delivery

“The way consumers access food continues to evolve from around the corner to around the world with an ever-changing last mile,” ​Frank Yiannas, FDA’s Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response, said yesterday at an event conducted by the National Environmental Health Association and Environmental Health Australia to mark World Food Safety Day.

He explained: “Before the pandemic, research indicated that online grocery shopping would have a 20% share of consumer food spending within the next few years. But the pandemic has rapidly accelerated this trend, with one study reporting that food retailers saw online sales jump more than 300% in the first several months of the pandemic.”

This acceleration of online shopping and new paths of purchase for consumers raises questions about who ‘owns’ the food in the last mile, and whether they are effectively covered by current food safety regulations and requirements.

‘Potential food safety vulnerabilities’

Yiannas said the FDA will host this fall a New Business Model Summit “to gain a greater understanding of evolving direct-to-consumer business models and explore the best ways to address potential food safety vulnerabilities.”

As part of FDA’s assessment of who “owns the food in the last mile,​” the agency says it will educate delivery services, such as the US Postal Service, UPS, FedEx, Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and others, on the importance of proper food handling.

The agency also is working with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other industry stakeholders to educate consumers on safe handling of delivered food to their home, Yiannas said.

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