A set of voluntary guidelines has been launched in Singapore dealing with food sold on the internet.

Singapore Standard 687: 2022 (Guidelines for food e-commerce) provides guidance to e-commerce players on their roles and responsibilities to ensure the safety of food products sold via online platforms.

Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, said businesses, e-commerce platforms, and food delivery companies can gain clarity on best practices in food safety in the different stages of the supply chain.

“For example, the standard provides guidance on the roles and responsibilities of stakeholders, as well as their responsibilities in food traceability and recalls. The standard also aims to improve the online ordering experience for end consumers. When implemented, consumers will have access to more details on the food products they are purchasing online and be empowered to make more informed decisions,” she said.

“I encourage you to adopt the practices outlined and hold one another to high food safety standards. Some of the industry leaders — foodpanda, Amazon, and Lazada — will be sharing how they will implement the guidelines in their companies.”

Industry urged to adopt the advice
Fu said e-commerce and delivery companies are playing an increasingly significant role in the food supply chain.

“While consumers shopping at a physical store can check on the condition of the food and find out important details via the label before purchase, this is not always possible when buying food online. E-commerce consumers have to rely on the product information provided by the e-commerce platform, which can vary significantly depending on the level of oversight the e-commerce platform has on its suppliers,” she said.

The voluntary standard was developed in 16 months by a working group including Food Industry Asia (FIA), the Singapore Food Agency (SFA), the Singapore Manufacturing Federation and industry players such as local food e-commerce and food delivery platforms, as well as supermarkets.

Tan Lee Kim, deputy chief executive officer of the Singapore Food Agency, said: “The publication and adoption of this standard would elevate industry standards and guide food business operators to achieve better transparency, traceability, and accountability when selling food online. Additionally, consumers would be empowered to make better-informed purchase decisions by buying from businesses that have implemented these practices and have greater food safety assurance.”

Growth of sector
Online purchases of food and the use of food delivery services in Singapore has grown in recent years. In 2021, 2.5 million consumers used delivery platforms to buy food products in the country, a 14 percent increase compared to 2020.

Currently, different food e-commerce and delivery platforms have varying practices around the traceability, safety, and transparency of food products sold through them.

By implementing the standard, the industry may gain clarity in the standardization of information to be displayed at points of sale and delivery; responsibilities of food traceability and recalls and ownership of managing potential issues such as consumer complaints, food safety incidents or recalls.

The document also aims to improve end consumers’ experience by strengthening the credibility and trustworthiness of food e-commerce platforms and by encouraging stakeholders in the e-commerce supply chain to conduct due diligence through proper implementation of food safety practices as part of their operations.

Matt Kovac, CEO of Food Industry Asia, said the standard shows Singapore’s response to a rise in the adoption of food e-commerce by consumers.

“It will provide food business operators with a practical set of voluntary e-commerce guidelines that can be applied to enhance current processes in order to ensure food safety whilst importantly not stifling innovation. Singapore is the first country to develop such a comprehensive set of voluntary guidelines, and hence the standard could be utilized by other authorities to help inform best practices for the industry,” he said.

Fu added that Singapore was also participating in the development of international standards for food sold through e-commerce, as part of the Codex Committee on food labeling. 

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