New food delivery models subject to FDA virtual summit scheduled for October


Not that long ago there was a time when going to grocery stores or restaurants was pretty much the only way to get food. Oh, the big cities had pizza and Chinese food deliveries. But that was about it.

Then came the pandemic, and everything changed. And some of these changes seem to persist. The United States Food and Drug Administration has decided to schedule a three-day virtual meeting on this change with the food industry, consumers and regulators.

The FDA has scheduled the meeting October 19-21 to address food safety risks “as consumers order more meals and groceries online.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for the FDA to help ensure that foods ordered online and delivered direct to consumers are safe to eat and at no risk of contamination, said Frank Yiannas, Commissioner FDA Assistant for Food Policy and Response.

Hello Fresh, Factor, Home Chef, Blue Apron, Sun Basket, Every Plate, Fresh Easy, Every Plate, Freshly, and Diet-to-go are some of the online order takers who then deliver food to customers‘ homes. These companies have responded to pandemic consumer demands with 18-20 recipe choices each week, all fresh ingredients, with presentation time typically around 30 minutes.

They pack meals for home delivery in cardboard boxes with fresh meat and other items – sometimes including fresh produce meant to be eaten raw – chilled with blocks of dry ice or cold packs. They rely on efficient home delivery services. In addition to grocery stores offering curbside pickup services and restaurants using DoorDash. Uber and other delivery services, home meal deliveries are changing the way people eat.

In the New Era of Smarter Food Project, the FDA promised the agency would hold a summit to address potential vulnerabilities in the safety of these foods, particularly during the critical “last mile” of delivery.

“This is exactly what we are doing,” Yiannas said.

The deputy commissioner said the October summit was “a crucial first step in a broader effort to address food safety as new business models emerge.”

Yiannas said the change was happening more slowly, but “during the pandemic the number of Americans ordering food for delivery has skyrocketed.”

“As the food system continues to change rapidly, including the way food is produced and delivered, meetings like this will help the FDA keep pace with this change and fulfill our mission to protect public health.” , added Yiannas.

The FDA plans to use what it learns in the public meeting and comments submitted to the Federal Register to help determine what actions, if any, might be needed to keep consumers safe.

The summit is an opportunity for the FDA to continue its collaboration on food safety with federal, state, local and tribal regulatory authorities and a wide range of stakeholders including industry, consumers, public health organizations and universities.

Topics for discussion during the summit should include:

  • Types of Business to Consumer (B2C) e-commerce models including product 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 such as third-party delivery and stand-alone delivery models;
  • Regulatory approaches to foods sold through B2C e-commerce, including challenges and gaps that require special attention; and
  • Labeling of foods sold through B2C e-commerce

See Federal Register notice announcing the meeting

Dates and times

Date: October 19-21, 2021

Time: 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern Time

Registration
There is no charge to attend the summit, but registration is required. Registered participants will receive details on how and when to view the summit online.

register here

Public comment session
During the three-day virtual event, there will be opportunities for public comment every day. Participants wishing to speak during public comment sessions should register as indicated in the Federal Register Notice by October 8, 2021. In addition, the FDA will open a public record to receive additional comments on these topics. Public comments can be submitted electronically to www.regulations.gov using Case ID: FDA-2021-N-0929 until November 20, 2021.

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