The Food Safety Information Council (FSIC) is warning Australians about the potential dangers of purchasing food through social media. The FSIC states that concerns stem from food being prepared in home kitchens which are not regulated and do not follow the food safety protocols that food businesses must adhere to. This puts the general public at risk for food safety incidents such as food-borne illnesses.
Food safety risks
The chair of the FSIC, Cathy Moir, states that “people selling unregulated food through social media sites such as Facebook and WeChat were putting the public at risk, as it was unlikely they would meet the required food safety standards.”
Moir emphasizes that this issue has grown significantly since May of this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has caused Australians to stay home and order online. Many of the food items that are sold through social media include curries, spring rolls, dumplings, roast meats, baked goods, pastas, seafood and raw sausages. This is a significant food safety risk as these food sales are unregulated and are not likely to meet food safety standards.
The FSIC also warns buyers that there are allergy risks when purchasing from unregistered food businesses on social media. Registered food businesses are required to be aware of labelling requirements and the allergens that are present in the food being sold. This is essential in order to inform customers appropriately and prevent allergic reactions, which could be severe or even deadly.
Unregistered food businesses are less likely to understand allergy food safety protocols as well as labelling requirements and standards. This means that a buyer could come into contact with an allergen due to allergens not being disclosed or the seller not even being aware that their product contains allergens. With food allergies affecting 2% of adults, 10% of infants under the age of one and 4—8% of children up to five years of age, this is a significant food safety concern in Australia.
Not only are these food sales through social media a food safety and allergen risk, they are also illegal. The Australian government and local council enforcement agencies have been working tirelessly to stop unregistered food businesses. Unfortunately, unregistered food businesses continue to pop on social media all of the time, making the prevention of food sales from unregistered businesses difficult to stamp out completely.
According to Moir, “The rules around the production and selling of food are very strict for a reason, and anyone selling food must adhere to these regulations in their State or Territory. This requires specific food safety knowledge and controls that cover hygiene, safe cooking and cooling rules, correct refrigeration, safe storage and transportation.”
Many food businesses that sell through social media are not registered and do not follow these strict food safety production and selling protocols. This puts the public at a significant risk, especially during the ongoing pandemic.
Don’t take the risk
Australians are encouraged to only purchase food from registered food businesses. The FSIC states that buyers should ask themselves the following questions before purchasing:
- Is the location you collect the food from a home address?
- Does the vendor have a website or social media page that proves it is a licensed food business and, if not, have you asked for proof that they have a food licence or are a registered business?
- Is the food a much cheaper price than you would usually pay?
If there is any doubt, do not purchase food items from the seller. Ensure you keep yourself safe and healthy by purchasing from local registered food businesses instead.