July 14, 2020

Do You Buy Food on Facebook? You May Want to Think Twice

You may or may not know this, but you can buy food through Facebook Marketplace. Sounds like a good idea in a time of potential food shortages, right?

Do You Buy Food on Facebook? You May Want to Think Twice

Maybe not.

Food safety experts think that buying food from “opaque” Facebook posts may lead to consumers eating adulterated or contaminated ¬†food. Some unscrupulous people may be selling adulterated food on Facebook, which is considered an “alternative channel” for sales because the food isn’t necessarily inspected before it’s shipped off to the buyer.

Chris Elliott, professor of food safety at Queen’s University in Belfast told The Grocer, “That’s where I would go [to sell food]. I’m sure a lot of what’s being sold on there is good, fine food, but I would say there’s also a lot of fraud happening on that particular marketplace now.”

While buying toilet paper or cleaning supplies may be okay, if you want to buy food on Facebook such as eggs, fish, and meat you may be taking a big chance. You don’t know if those foods have been inspected, how they were acquired or processed, and you have no idea what the supply chain looks like. The foods could have been held at potentially dangerous temperatures for hours or days. After all, the pathogens that can make you really sick don’t change the look, texture, aroma, or taste of food.

And even cooking those foods properly may not be safe. Some pathogens can produce toxins as they grow that are not destroyed by heat.

While Facebook’s commerce policy states that no recalled food can be sold on their platform, there is no mention of selling food that hasn’t been inspected or which may have been mishandled.

And because of the coronavirus pandemic, there are fewer inspections by government agencies. The FDA has ended routine inspections and is depending on corporations to police themselves. Regulation of online food sales is not well developed.

In the UK, online food delivery services with low hygiene scores have been selling food on Facebook and other social media platforms. While the Food Standards Agency in the UK has worked with Facebook to develop a mechanism for reporting food safety concerns, there is no active monitoring right now.

Right now, Facebook just says that sellers must comply with all laws and regulations. While a listing that violates law may be removed, the sellers may have already sold potentially dangerous food.

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