• FDA’s first action concerning the labeling of “online grocery” was a 2007 ‘‘Dear Manufacturer’’ letter that recommended consistency with FDA’s current regulatory requirements for labeling of food packages.  Subsequently, FDA’s October 2021 ‘‘New Era of Smarter Food Safety Summit on E-Commerce: Ensuring the Safety of Foods Ordered Online and Delivered Directly to Consumers’’ (Summit) included a session focused on the nutrition, ingredient, and major allergen information that is displayed through online grocery shopping platforms.  Since that time, FDA has become increasingly concerned about the food label information that is available to consumers through online grocery shopping platforms, including grocery retailer (e.g., supermarket) websites, manufacturer’s websites, and third-party online grocery providers. 
  • On April 21, 2023 FDA posted a Constituent Update on a Request For Information (RFI) that was published today about the content, format, and accuracy of food labeling information provided through online grocery shopping platforms.  FDA has posed specific, enumerated questions regarding: 
  1. Food Labeling Information Provided Through Online Grocery Shopping
    • What mandatory label information is currently available?
    • How consistently is mandatory label information presented across different platforms?
    • How is nutrition, ingredient, and major food allergens information presented, e.g., where is it available on the web page in relation to the product?
    • When provided, is the nutrition, ingredient, and major food allergens information in the same format as on the packaged product (e.g., Nutrition Facts label format)?
    • If pictures of the product are used, what ensures the information in the picture is consistent with the package label, and is readable and accessible on all devices?
  2. Industry Considerations and Logistics of Food Labeling in Online Grocery Shopping
    • How do manufacturers, grocery retailers, and third-party online grocery providers decide what label information to display?
    • What challenges and limitations are encountered when seeking to display food labeling information?
    • What, if any, are the labeling challenges for international websites?
    • How is information online ensured to be accurate, up to date, and consistent with the product package?
    • How are reformulations addressed that may alter a product’s nutrition, ingredient, or major food allergens information?
    • If a change or error is detected, how is the information collected and the website updated, e.g., is there a customer feedback loop or internal quality assurance process?
    • What measures are taken to ensure that consumers can access accurate nutrition, ingredient, and major food allergens information?
    • Are there opportunities to leverage online platforms (e.g., interactive labeling) to improve consumer engagement with and accessibility to food labeling information?
    • How is equitable online access to labeling information ensured for consumers?
    • Do current online labeling presentations present barriers to accessing labeling information for certain consumers?
  3. Consumer Use of Food Label Information in Online Grocery Shopping
    • What food label information do consumers expect to see, e.g., all the same information as the retail food package label?
    • When there is a picture of a product label online, do consumers expect the picture of the label to be the same as the label on the retail food package?
    • To what extent, and how, do consumers use nutrition, ingredient, and major food allergens information, e.g., to support eating healthier?
    • What percentage of consumers – identified by demographic data if possible – use the label information because of specific dietary concerns?
    • What do consumers find most challenging about navigating online shopping platforms for specific label information needs?
    • What data are available on the most effective ways for presenting nutrition, ingredient, and major food allergens information that consumers find useful?
    • What are effective means of displaying this information on the platform to ensure consumers have ready access?
  • There is no specific information on the timing or type of follow-up action FDA may take regarding food labeling in on-line grocery shopping.  Comments on FDA’s RFI are due by July 24, 2023.  FDA asks responders to provide any data and evidence to support their responses and to identify the question by its number (such as 1.1) when responding.  FDA will also consider comments relevant to on-line food labeling that were received in a public docket established for the 2021 Summit.  Please let us know if you are interested in submitting comments on this topic.