A surge in the online sale of food products made in unregistered home kitchens on places such as Facebook Marketplace has sparked a dire warning from food safety experts that buyers are rolling the dice on their lives.
Food safety experts have warned “potentially dangerous” food prepared in unregulated home kitchens is being sold via Facebook, calling for them to be banned from social media sites.
The calls comes as food home deliveries boom during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Food and Safety Council spokeswoman Lydia Buchtmann warned that people selling food through sites such as Facebook Marketplace were putting the public at risk, especially during a pandemic, as many did not meet the required food safety standards.
“These unregulated food sales are a considerable food safety risk, even though you can’t get COVID-19 from food, there is still a risk when delivering food, as well as a risk of food poisoning,” Ms Buchtmann said.
She warned enforcement agencies were clamping down on unregistered food businesses but new sellers “keep popping up”.
“We would prefer to see the social media giants crack down on these practices and not permit the sale of food unless it is proven to be a registered food business,” Ms Buchtmann said.
She said unregistered businesses were “unequipped” and most likely not abiding by standards and regulations enforced in typical Victorian hospitality businesses.
Food microbiology expert Julian Cox said food prepared in unregulated kitchens posed a severe health risk and warned people could die.
“Depending on the type of organism or toxin associated with the food there can be little or no symptoms, through to gastroenteritis, to potentially severe complications, including death,” Mr Cox said.
Although Facebook restricted the sale of event tickets, healthcare products and animals, there was no restriction on selling food through Marketplace, according to the policy published on their site.
Facebook Marketplace sells foods, including curries, spring rolls, dumplings, baked goods, pastas, seafood and raw sausages, many made in unregulated home kitchens.
In Victoria, all food businesses must comply with Food Standards’ safety requirements, which cover food handling controls, storage, processing, display, packaging, transportation, disposal and recall of food.
The requirements also cover food handlers’ skills and knowledge, health and hygiene of handlers, the cleaning, sanitising and maintenance of the food premises and equipment.
Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services warned food poisoning was a serious illness that could kill people through contaminated food and drink, and contamination could happen during food preparation or storage.
Department spokesman Graeme Walker said all home-based businesses must be registered with their council and follow regulations.
“Local councils are also responsible for investigating complaints and enforcing breaches of the Act,” Mr Walker said.
The Food and Safety Council advised the public to not buy food from social media sites but to support local businesses, most of which now offered online ordering and delivery.
Facebook Australia declined to comment.