Opportunities to address the failure of online food retailers to ensure access to required food labelling information in the USA

Jennifer L. Pomeranz, Sean B. Cash, Morgan Springer, Inés M. Del Giudice, Dariush Mozaffarian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: The rapid growth in web-based grocery food purchasing has outpaced federal regulatory attention to the online provision of nutrition and allergen information historically required on food product labels. We sought to characterise the extent and variability that online retailers disclose required and regulated information and identify the legal authorities for the federal government to require online food retailers to disclose such information. Design: We performed a limited scan of ten products across nine national online retailers and conducted legal research using LexisNexis to analyse federal regulatory agencies' authorities. Setting: USA. Participants: N/A. Results: The scan of products revealed that required information (Nutrition Facts Panels, ingredient lists, common food allergens and per cent juice for fruit drinks) was present, conspicuous and legible for an average of only 36·5 % of the products surveyed, ranging from 11·4 % for potential allergens to 54·2 % for ingredients lists. More commonly, voluntary nutrition-related claims were prominently and conspicuously displayed (63·5 % across retailers and products). Our legal examination found that the Food and Drug Administration, Federal Trade Commission and United States Department of Agriculture have existing regulatory authority over labelling, online sales and advertising, and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programme retailers that can be utilised to address deficiencies in the provision of required information in the online food retail environment. Conclusions: Information regularly provided to consumers in conventional settings is not being uniformly provided online. Congress or the federal agencies can require online food retailers disclose required nutrition and allergen information to support health, nutrition, equity and informed consumer decision-making.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1375-1383
Number of pages9
JournalPublic Health Nutrition
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 24 2022


  • Federal regulatory agencies
  • Food labelling
  • Online food retail
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programme

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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