Online shopping for foods and ready meals is becoming increasingly popular among Germany’s households. To date, products like these have primarily been supplied by commercial websites. But what happens if individuals also decide to offer their home-cooked foods online? In this case they are liable for the safety of the products they sell, in the same way as any conventional food manufacturer. TÜV SÜD lists the obligations that apply to individuals moving into the food Business.
According to the law, a food business operator is anyone producing, processing or selling foods, irrespective of whether the aim is to generate profit or is driven by social concerns such as avoiding food waste, and whether the operator is an individual, a company or a non-profit organisation.
The obligations that food business operators must observe are set forth in law, for example in Regulation (EC) No. 178/2002. The regulation states that all food business operators must comply with the provisions specified in food law, and are thus required to familiarise themselves with the fundamental duties of care in food safety and quality assurance and with the requirements of food law concerning manufacturing and labelling of products. Any products that are unsafe or unwholesome may not be placed on the market.
For private food business operators who sell their products on the Internet, it is important to know the following:
- The same rules apply on the Internet as in conventional bricks-and-mortar points of sale.
- Mandatory information required for labelling on packages must likewise be given for home-made products sold via the Internet, e.g. basic price per unit of weight/volume, total weight/volume, correct designation of the product, mandatory declaration of any allergens the product contains).
- It is not enough to include these details on the packaging of the finished product as it reaches the customer. Under the Food Information for Consumers Regulation, this information is mandatory and must be made available to purchasers before they enter an online sales contract.
- Since last year, a declaration of nutritional values has likewise been mandatory for the majority of prepacked foods, giving details including the fat, saturated fat, protein, carbohydrate and calorie/kilojoule content of the food
- In addition, the Food Information for Consumers Regulation imposes specific requirements of how this information must be displayed in an online shop. For sales within Germany, nutritional values must always be displayed in German.
- Online sale of foods must take an appropriate period for return of the product into consideration, e.g. in the case of home-made pasta or pesto. An exception is made for perishable products, which would go bad within the time taken to return them.
- Online food business operators have a basic obligation to register with their local supervisory authority (municipal food authorities, departments of public order or veterinary authorities). Operators selling their products on an existing website must enquire about Registration.
- This obligatory registration does not apply to food production primarily for private domestic use or consumption.
- If necessary, operators can direct enquiries to authorised regional food experts or to the sworn food chemistry experts at their regional chamber of commerce and industry.
- Private individuals with queries should contact the local food authority at their place of residence or administrative district.
For more information on the subject of food safety, visit www.tuv-sud.com/foodsafety or the TÜV SÜD Food Safety Institute GmbH at www.tuev-sued.de/fsi. Specific information on food analysis can be found at www.tuev-sued.de/elab.
Press contact: Carolin Eckert