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Here’s what you’re missing when you buy groceries online

A new study shows that consumers can miss out on ingredient lists and nutritional facts by shopping for groceries online

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Nick Saginario restocks shelves at Heinen’s Fine Foods store.

Nick Saginario restocks shelves at Heinen’s Fine Foods store, Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, in Pepper Pike, Ohio. Shortages at U.S. grocery stores have grown in recent weeks as new problems, like the fast-spreading omicron variant and severe weather, have piled on to the supply chain struggles and labor shortages that have plagued retailers since the coronavirus pandemic began.

Tony Dejak, Associated Press

The pandemic prompted many of us to order our groceries online to stay safe and avoid bare aisles as everyone stocked up.

But the transition to online grocery shopping hasn’t been perfect. according to a recent study published Thursday.

Although shopping online may be convenient, the system doesn’t consider limitations of food allergies or medically necessary dietary limitations.

Packaged foods are required by law to have nutritional facts and ingredients available for consumers to review but none of that information is listed in online grocery stores, the study published in Public Health Nutrition found.

  • Per U.S. News, information like serving sizes, calories, added sugars, allergens, ingredients and daily values of sodium, sugar, carbohydrates, fats and protein should be available for the consumer.

Study co-author Jennifer Pomeranz, an assistant professor of public health policy and management at New York University School of Global Public Health, said, “I think it’s a misconception that people don’t read the food labels,” per CNN.

  • “People who have been diagnosed with a disease or told that they are at risk for disease, the elderly, people with children ... people with allergies. ... People read food labels for different reasons, and it’s incredibly important for safety purposes.”
  • “I would argue that not disclosing the nutrition facts panel and the ingredients list, including allergens, is an unfair or deceptive act,” Pomeranz said.

The study identified and analyzed 10 national packaged products across nine online retailers and found that nutritional facts and ingredients were not included at all in approximately 11% of products. The products that did contain this information did not disclose the presence of common food allergens, per Healthline.

Wendy White, industry manager for food and beverage at Georgia Institute of Technology, said, “I think, the FDA, they are definitely taking steps to correct this gap that we currently have in some types of online food sales, but unfortunately the speed at which the FDA can create and then enforce regulations is notably slow.”