It might also contain ingredients that your would rather it didn't. It might also include packaging from a provider that you have recently heard has an active policy of sourcing materials that are relatively cheap and highly unsustainable. You might even have read that the packaging that they use for food products is not being used in the right way.
Why might Food Delivery Service Providers be leading the way when offering full transparency to consumers regarding information on food products? Why this sector?
The answer for this comes from the convergence of a number of factors. Notably, not only from the concerns that Governments and Regulators have regarding the security of the supply chain, but also from the consumers themselves and their increasing demand for information on products they buy. With the advent of social media, information sharing on products has reached a pitch and is likely only to gather more momentum. This will inevitably lead to the creation of commercial systems that provide consumers with what they want. Add to this, the increasing prevalence of systems and technologies that are specifically designed to trace, track and audit any product as it moves through the supply chain, and you have all the essential factors that will justify the investment and commitment required for the design and development of the nuanced systems that will be able to provide consumers with the information that they require. And perhaps most importantly, the provision of this information to consumers is precisely what Food Delivery Service Providers ought to be providing now. Consumers know this.
A quick survey of online feedback provided to the major Food Delivery Service providers from their consumers will tell you that they are already demanding this information. For instance, a question that someone who has just received a food product that has arrived late and cold might ask is: When was this product made and was it heated to the right temperature before it was sent out on delivery. They might also ask, is the packaging used for this product the right packaging, or, has the packaging been tampered with?
Unless we build Food Delivery Systems that are designed for Food Safety, i.e., designed to track all relevant information regarding the nature of the food product, we will not be able to provide consumers with the assurances they require. It needs to be said that current UK Food Safety Law does not allow a Food Retail Company to receive commercial food product from a Food Product Manufacturer without the provision and tracking of relevant product information. We may well ask why this is not required of the new group of Food Delivery Service providers when collecting product from restaurants or Food Retail outlets and delivering those products to individuals at home or at office.
A Food Safety Guide for Consumers Ordering Food Online
Until Food Delivery Service Providers operate with more nuanced Food Delivery Systems, you will want to check the following:
- Correct Item: This is the most obvious place to start but you will be surprised to know that people often receive the wrong order. This is made all the more dangerous as the product often arrives without a label. How do you know what you are receiving? Check. Check again and make sure that the product you ordered is one you can eat. Those with allergies of one kind or another should be very careful with food that has been delivered.
- Temperature: Always make sure the food product ordered is being held at the right temperature. If it’s supposed to be cold, verify it’s at 8 degrees Celsius. If the food being delivered isn’t at the right temperature, don’t accept it. You will not know how long it has been sitting in the 'danger zone', i.e., outside correct temperature zone for safety.
- Package integrity: Check the packaging that the food has arrived in. Are there any rips or tears? Is it wet or falling apart? Most food is delivered either in cardboard boxes or paper-based packaging and can easily be compromised. Make sure that there are no signs of pests or rodents and also check to see if the packaging has gotten wet. It is very easy for food to be contaminated by water seeping through packaging. Always make sure the packaging is secure and not compromised in any way before accepting the order.
- Delivery time: Certain Delivery Service Providers will tell you beforehand when they plan to deliver your food product. That is well and good but do you know when the product was made? Do you know how long it has been passing through the delivery system? Ask them. Some products, notably those that have been reheated, must be consumed within a few hours of having been made. I would insist that the Delivery Provider tell me not only when the product was made but also when it must be consumed by. Also remember that chilled food needs to be kept chilled before being eaten. Don't ever agree to food being left outside if there is no one home to accept it.
- Delivery vehicles: The boxes or vehicles of distribution ought to be kept clean and should also be subject to regular auditing. You will have no way of checking this but do take note of the Driver and the vehicle he/she is driving. They will often arrive with a delivery bag and you will want to have a look inside. If it is dirty or looks compromised in any way, refuse the order.