The mandatory guidelines look to modify current online rules to compliment current laws dictating food products sold in the supermarket.
Selling food online, normally thorough social media and websites, has become a first port of call for many food companies to reach out to a younger, more internet-savvy demographic.
The guide comes at a time when selling or advertising food online is on the increase.
According to Dr Pamela Byrne, CEO of Food Safety Authority Ireland (FSAI), online shopping in the Irish grocery sector totals €170 million per year.
Whilst this 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.
“No matter how a consumer buys a food product, be it in-store or online, the food laws apply equally to both transactions,” she said. “Anyone selling or advertising food online is classed as a food business owner and they must comply with relevant legislation.”
Wider food issues covered
As well as guidelines that clarify legislation, labelling, advertising, health and nutrition claim and allergen declaration requirements, the guide devotes to large portion to key areas which food businesses selling or advertising online should address.
This includes guidance on the registration of food businesses, provision of food information to consumers, displaying mandatory food information and making claims about food.
Wider food issues are also covered particularly food safety, with advice for businesses on the ensuring the optimum temperature control of foods, traceability, product recall, and consumer protection law.
Additional assistance is available via FSAI’s advice line, which can provide further pointers as to the various legal obligations and provisions placed on food businesses.
“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,” said Dr Byrne.
“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,” she added.
The FSAI is part of a European Commission working group that was created to ensure a coordinated approach across EU member states and non-EU countries regarding internet sales of food.
This month the UK-based Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP), the sister organisation of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), put in place new rules that ban adverts for high in fat, salt and sugar products in all children’s media.