Online Shopping of High-risk Foods

Online food shopping has become a common practice these days. When purchasing food online, consumers should pay particular attention to the nature of foods because certain high-risk food items are known to be associated with food poisoning outbreaks.

What are high-risk foods?

There are two questions to determine if a food is a high-risk food – First, does it need to be kept refrigerated (4 ℃) or frozen (-18 ℃) ? Second, is it a "ready-to-eat" food (further cooking is not needed before consumption)? If the answers to both questions are "yes", it is a high-risk food.

Foods that are high in protein or moisture and low in acid are perishable because they support microbial growth. Strict temperature control of these foods is needed to minimize or prevent growth of pathogenic bacteria. When these foods are cooked, processed or to be eaten raw, they are considered high-risk foods. It is because consumers, after receipt of the food, are not required to cook the food in order to kill any pathogens that might have contaminated the food before eating.

The following high-risk foods are of particular concern for online shoppers -

  1. Seafood to be eaten raw - sashimi, marinated raw crabs or shrimps, raw oyster, etc.
  2. Cooked or cured meats, poultry, fish and seafood– ham, sausages, smoked turkey, smoke salmon, etc.
  3. Mixed foods – sushi and sandwiches
  4. Cakes, puddings or any desserts containing milk, cream, cheese, mousse, eggs, etc.

Be discerning when about ordering high-risk foods online

High-risk foods require special storage and transport conditions to control microbial risk, but it is not easy for the consumers to verify if appropriate measures have been put in place by online shops during manufacturing, processing, storage and transport to ensure food safety along the chain. As such the public needs to be more discerning when ordering high-risk foods online. The public is advised to pay attention to the nature and potential risks associated with the food items that they intend to purchase online.