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Food delivery, food safety risks

Il food delivery in Italy it continues to grow, despite the current perma-crisis, but the question of 'food safety' - partly linked to workers' rights, RIDERS and not – remains unresolved in several respects.

In the jungle of gig economy, brief notes on the rules to be applied and the official controls that are missing. But also some advice for consumers, on how to prevent food poisoning due to food delivery.

1) food delivery e quick commerce, growth and focus

food delivery e quick commerce, according to the estimates presented by Ambrosetti at the 'Food Forum 2023', the rise begun in the Covid era continues (1,2):

– the sole platforms of food delivery, in Italy, have gone from 70 million euros in total turnover in 2015 to over 360 million in 2018, more than 700 in 2020, up to € 1,8 billion in 2022,

- the food delivery therefore expresses 44% in value of theecommerce agri-food - € 4,7 billion, in turn equal to 3% of the total turnover of the sector - followed by groceries (37%) and food and wine (19%). It is worth adding, however, that

– the Italian market is concentrated in the hands of a few player international. Less and less, after Uber-eats, Gorillas and Getir in rapid succession, in June and July 2023, decided to withdraw from Italy leaving the RIDER such as administrative staff and other employees (3,4,5).

2) Food safety e food delivery, microbiological risks

The microbiological analyses carried out on Glovo bags used for transporting food, carried out as part of an investigation by Gambero Rosso, revealed the presence of over 200 colonies of bacteria on the bottom and walls of the box. Three times those that - if found on the floor of a restaurant - can lead to its closure by the authorities, as reported by the head of the laboratory in charge. (6)

Beniamino Cenci Goga – professor in the inspection of foods of animal origin at the Department of Veterinary Medicine of the University of Perugia, interviewed by GIFT – he stated that 'to express a comment on the Gambero Rosso investigation, it is necessary to investigate the methods of analysis and the identity of the isolated microorganisms'.

'In any case', continues Professor Cenci Goga, 'although the containers do not qualify as MOCA (materials and objects in contact with food, or Food Contact Materials, FCM), it is necessary that they are adequately washed and disinfected'.

3) Food hygiene and culture of food safety, EU rules

Food hygiene – cornerstone of food safety – is defined as 'the measures and conditions necessary to control hazards and ensure the fitness for human consumption of a foodstuff, taking into account its intended use'. (7) The recent reform of Hygiene 1 Regulation (EC) No 852/04 then introduced the concept of 'food safety culture'. (8)

'Food business operators must establish and maintain adequate food safety culture, and provide evidence to prove it, meeting the following requirements:

a) commitment by management (…) and all employees to the safe production and distribution of food,

b) leading role in the production of safe food and in the involvement of all employees in food safety practices,

c) awareness, by all company employees, of the dangers for food safety and of the importance of safety andfood hygiene,

d) open and clear communication between all employees of the enterprise, within an activity and between consecutive activities, including the communication of deviations and expectations,

e) availability of sufficient resources to ensure the safe and hygienic handling of food' (new Chapter XI-bis, Food safety culture).

3.1) Food safety e food delivery, risks of contamination with allergens

Hygiene 1 Regulation (EC) No 852/04, in its latest reform, also updated the general hygiene requirements that all operators in the food chain must comply with. By introducing special measures aimed at preventing the risk of food contamination with allergens – and thus guaranteeing food safety – which also apply to food delivery.

'The equipment, vehicles and/or containers used for the transformation, the manipulation, the transportation or storage substances or [food] products causing allergies or intolerances, referred to in Annex II of Regulation (EU) No. 1169/2011, must not be used for the transformation, manipulation, transport or storage of food products that do not contain such substances or products, unless such equipment, vehicles and/or containers have not been cleaned and checked at least for check for the absence of any visible residues of these substances or products' (Reg. EU No 852/04, Annex II, new point 9). (9)

3.2) Responsibility of managers of food delivery

'The operators of the food and feed sector they have to guarantee that in the enterprises controlled by them the food or feed meets the requirements of food law relevant to their activities at all stages of production, processing and distribution and verify that these requirements are met'. (10)

Food safety must be guaranteed by all operators, including the managers of the food deliverywho are responsible for:

– prepare and guarantee the effective adoption of self-monitoring procedures. Namely, good hygiene practices (Good Hygienic Practices, GHPs) and HACCP (Hazard Analysis on Critical Control Points),

– training and supervision of all those involved in handling, transporting and storing food. Whether they are employees, even of third-party companies (e.g. service cooperatives) or 'self-employed', as Assodelivery in Italy insists on qualifying RIDERS. (11)

4) Official controls

The health authorities are in turn responsible for official controls on the agri-food chain, pursuant to the Official Controls Regulation (EU) No 2017/625. GIFT asked Fabrizio De Stefani, director of the veterinary food hygiene service of the ULSS No. 7 Pedemontana company as well as author of the precious 'Guidelines for food delivery of bars and restaurants in the time of Covid', which remain very topical precisely as regards the requirements of hygiene and food safety. (12)

Official controls they are essential, underlines Fabrizio De Stefani, and must include both the measures adopted for the prevention of the risk of food contamination with allergens, and the necessary information relating to them. Which however is still absent in almost all cases, in the food delivery and in quick commerce. The problem is that, unfortunately, the authorities in charge of official controls often do not have sufficient resources to even pay the 'minimum wage' for traditional structures and follow thousands of RIDERS cycling would require funding, as well as programming, not seen hitherto. (13)

5) Advice for consumers

'The suggestion that we feel we can give to take-away food consumers is in any case that of do not place containers used for transport on the table or on the kitchen table, but transfer the food to the more usual domestic supplies e wash your hands well after contact with the bags in which it is contained' (Professor Beniamino Cenci Goga, University of Perugia).

These tips are of particular importance when foods purchased through food delivery are intended for vulnerable people. Children, pregnant women, the elderly and immune-compromised people (even temporarily, due to treatments with antibiotic drugs, cortisone, chemotherapy) are in fact exposed to the risk of even serious illnesses due to widespread food poisoning, as we have seen. (14)

Dario Dongo


(1) Marta Strinati. Food delivery, the boom of meals at home. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

(2) Marta Strinati. Food Delivery for 1 out of 3 Italians. Consumer expectations. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

(3) Marta Strinati. Uber Eats leaves Italy, rider without protection. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

(4) Marta Strinati. Gorillas closes in Italy. Off to layoffs. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

(5) Delivery startup Getir to exit Italy, Spain and Portugal. to Reuters. 27.7.23 https://www.reuters.com/business/delivery-startup-getir-exit-italy-spain-portugal-2023-07-27/

(6) Maurizio Gaddi. Bacteria at home. Shock investigation into food contamination in delivery. The Gambero Rosso. 19.8.23 https://tinyurl.com/yc5ajjyw

(7) Hygiene 1 Regulation (EC) No 852/04, as amended, article 2, paragraph 1, letter 'a'

(8) Dario Dongo. EU Reg. 2021/382. Allergen management, safety culture, food redistribution. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

(9) The same requirement is established for operators of primary agricultural production (reg. EU 852/04, Annex I, Part A, Section II, new article 5-bis)

(10) General Food Law (Reg. EC 178/02), article 17 – Obligations

(11) Angelo Junior Avelli, Marco Marrone, Maurilio Pirone. What happened to the riders? Jacobin Italy. 4.8.23 https://tinyurl.com/337k6hmf

(12) Dario Dongo, Giulia Caddeo. Covid 19, guidelines for the rebirth of restaurants and bars through food delivery. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

(13) The Italian government, as already denounced also on this site, has dedicated generous resources to the ICQRF (Central Inspectorate for the protection of quality and the repression of fraud of agri-food products) but not also to the health and veterinary services, on which the official food safety controls. See the previous article 'Ministry of Agriculture, ICQRF and Carabinieri for agri-food. Budget law 2023'. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

(14) Dario Dongo. Listeria, a dangerous pathogen out of control. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.

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