Guidance for distance selling

Distance selling means any selling carried out without face-to-face contact with the consumer. For example, via the internet, text messaging, phone calls, faxing, interactive TV or mail order.

Do I need to register?

Yes, you must register your business when you start a mail order or internet based food business.

Business premises includes a trader's permanent premises, which can be a domestics address, as well as temporary premises (such as a market stall) where you usually operate.

Laws relating to distance selling of food

When you sell food by mail order or via the internet, the food you sell is still subject to general food law requirements including hygiene and safety, traceability, product withdrawal and recall procedures, labelling and allergen information requirements.

You must ensure that you make the same level of consumer information available to your customers, via your website or catalogue, as when the food is bought from a high street retail shop, including:

  • Mandatory food labelling information.
  • Nutrition and health claims.
  • Allergens information.

Delivery of foods sent by post or courier

All foods must be delivered in a way that ensures that it remains fit for human consumption. Perishable foods that need refrigerating (such as fish, meat products, cooked foods, many dairy products and ready-prepared salads) should be delivered as quickly as possible, ideally overnight, and may require packing in an insulated box with coolant gel packs, or in a cool bag to maintain temperature control. Any packaging should be capable of protecting the food against mechanical damage and sources of contamination while it is in transit.

Further guidance and advice

Whilst we may be able to offer you some basic legislative advice on distant selling and information to include on your website, you are encouraged to seek further food safety advice on specific food products from a private consultant or contact one of the food research associations or firms that carry out Public Analyst work to assist you in achieving compliance.

You will find more information on distance sales and relevant requirements on the FSA website.

The Mail Order Fine Foods Association has recently published a guide to distance selling. You can buy a copy online at the TSO shop.