Food ecommerce, the information fugitive

0
15

Food ecommerce sales are subject to consumer information duties that are still largely disregarded. The rules have been in place for more than six years, but few comply with them. Why, how is this possible? Brief analysis and comments to follow.

EU Regulation 1169/11, the so-called Food Information Regulation, requires that all information stipulated as mandatory on the label (1) must always be provided to the consumer. Even in the case of distance selling, such as precisely ecommerce. In such cases, news must be made available before the fateful ‘click’ to place the purchase order. (2)

Most operators in Italy, however, persist in disapplying the above requirements. We subscribed to the most well-known websites for online food sales to check their level of ‘compliance’. Next, the ranking of illegality. From outlaw sites to those closest to compliance for food ecommerce.

Food ecommerce, the ranking of illegality

Amazon. The information form is based on two items, ‘Description’ and ‘Functionality and Details’. The latter sometimes refers to ‘Features’ and ‘Product Details’. However, which are rarely (when ever) filled in as they should be. Thus, essential news is missing. (3)

Auchan – Simply. The website www.auchan.it is nothing more than a flyer in web format. No information beyond name and price per unit, save sometimes quantity. Spesasimply.co.uk adds ‘Additional Info’ and ‘Ingredients’ (with allergen citation often lacking and lacking evidence). Sometimes a nutrition statement appears, perhaps
incomplete.

Conad. The website www.conadacasa.it allows online purchase and delivery, in some limited districts, of purchased goods. However, information on food products, beyond product name and price, per unit of sale and per kg is not available. Only an image-at a low level of definition and therefore unserviceable-is present of the label front.

The most attentive

Esselunga. The portal www.esselungaacasa.it presents a basic core of product information. ‘Features’ (sales name and ‘money back guarantee’), ‘Ingredients’ (with allergens highlighted in bold’), ‘Usage tips’ (‘storage details’). The precautionary statement about the possible presence of allergenic ingredients is, moreover, devoid of any usefulness, since it refers indiscriminately to the entire list of substances under reg. EU 1169/11. (4)

Carrefour. The French group, at https://myshop.carrefour.it, introduces each product with an articulated group of news items. ‘Ingredients/Allergens’, ‘Nutrition Information’, ‘Usage Tips and Warnings’, ‘Sales Name’, ‘Other Information’. Unsatisfactoryinformation on the presence of allergenic ingredients, often referred to by reference to non-permitted categories, such as ‘nuts’.

Coop Italy. https://www.easycoop.com/ offers detailed information on all food products for sale through its website. ‘Details’, ‘Ingredients’, ‘Allergens’, ‘Nutritional values’, ‘Storage’, ‘More information’. Reports on allergens are sometimes inaccurate. (5)

No penalties to those who ignore consumers

How is it possible for some of the major distribution operators to violate the most basic rules? There is no shortage of technical tools. GS1-Italy(Global Standard Italia, formerly known as Indicod-ECR) has been developing the Immagino system for years, to catalog all foods with legal news. But in Italy, where even though there is talk of ‘corporate social responsibility,’ (6) compliance with laws is neglected until their contravention is punished. And EU Regulation 1169/11 is to date without sanctions.

Consumers are the losers, as always. Allergy sufferers and those with celiac disease in particular, for whom the food ecommerce service is effectively unavailable due to fugitive or unsuitable information. (7) But their associations do not seem to notice, and the writer is unfortunately the only one to denounce this very serious failure of the Italian government. Widespread latitude.

Notes

(1) Outside of only those news items that distinguish the individual sales unit, such as the minimum shelf life or expiration date, and the lot code
(2) Pursuant to reg. EU 1169/11, the information ‘shall be available before the conclusion of the purchase and shall appear on the medium of distance selling or shall be provided by any other appropriate means clearly identified by the food business operator’ (Article 14)
(3) Indeed, one feels taken for a ride when reading the ever-present ‘Important Information – Warnings’ where it states that ‘Manufacturers may change the composition of their products. Therefore, the product packaging may contain different information than what is shown on our website.

Please always read the label, warnings and instructions provided on the product before using or consuming it.’ But which label to read and where?
(4) Esselunga’s website reports that ‘All deli products may contain, as an ingredient or in trace amounts (as they are processed at the same plant), the following substances and their derivatives:

cereals containing gluten (wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt, kamut or their hybridized strains), crustaceans, fish, shellfish, peanuts, soybeans, lupine, eggs, milk (including lactose), nuts (almonds, hazelnuts walnuts, cashew nuts, pecans, Brazil nuts, pistachios, Queensland walnuts), celery, mustard, sesame seeds, sulfur dioxide and sulfites in concentrations greater than 10 mg/kg (expressed as SO2)’. And where is self-control?
(5) A couple of examples from the Coop Italia website. ‘Bibanesi spelt and quinoa’, allergens ‘cereals’ (?), ‘Coop crackers with extra virgin olive oil and rosemary’, allergens ‘cereals containing gluten’
(6) CSR, Corporate Social Responsibility.
(7) Paradoxically, in Italy, discrimination of all forms of disability is amplified rather than reduced by the Web. Exemplary in this regard is Trenitalia, which does not allow people with disabilities to purchase tickets online (and thus access offers)