Action plan on online offers and advertising of food related to COVID-19

Action plan on online offers and advertising of food related to COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has created widespread anxiety among population and fuelled demand for possible cures.

Some Member States authorities have observed that more and more products sold via the internet are being advertised as having a positive effect on the immune system or as protection against infection by coronavirus.

Scientific evidence so far does not support any claim that any food or food supplement protects against COVID-19 infection.

Criminals and fraudsters are using the COVID-19 pandemic as a business opportunity. Products claiming to prevent and cure COVID-19 are being marketed illegally and may even pose significant risks to health.

Health claims made on foods are authorised by the European Commission, following a scientific assessment of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

To date, there are no authorised health claims for a food or food supplement as protecting against viral infection or boosting immunity against any virus.

However, the European Commission has authorised health claims that refer to the role of certain essential nutrients, for example vitamins C and D and iron, in contributing to the normal functioning of the immune system.

These essential nutrients are found in a number of wholesome and nutritious foods and are key to strengthening our body’s immune system as part of a healthy and balanced diet.

Observed sales of products claiming to prevent and cure COVID-19 has led to action by some Member States’ authorities, namely through alerting some market places about products and product advertisements on their platforms regarding dubious and illicit practices or processing actions and investigations at national level.

In view of this, to facilitate common and coordinated approach to this issue across the EU, the European Commission proposed a coordinated action plan on online offers and advertising of food related to COVID-19.

Action:

In coordination with EU countries authorities, the European Commission has called Member States to reinforce their vigilance and adapt their control activities on online offers and advertising of food related to COVID-19. The Commission has asked Member States authorities to:

  • Trace and identify websites, sellers and operators with illegal practices in the marketing of food and food supplements linked with COVID-19 sold online in the European Union
  • Follow-up on non-compliances and suspicions of fraudulent practices that are identified
  • Strengthen the cooperation and administrative assistance between Member State authorities on the control of internet sales

Inform consumers that products bearing COVID-19 infection-related health claims are illegal and might even be injurious to their health.

Timeline and Reporting

Activity

Time

Launch event with Member States competent authorities

13-17 April 2020

Start of the action

20 April 2020

Reporting to the Commission and communication

  • Immediately through EU Networks for cross border cases
  • Once a week for internal cases using the form provided

Results

Member States competent authorities shall report the Commission the results of their official controls.

These figures will be regularly published here (updated 6/10/2020)

Notified cases of food offered online related to COVID-19

Status of cases reported

Action taken

Contact: SANTE-ECOMMERCE@ec.europa.eu

Legal Basis for the action plan on online offers and advertising of food related to COVID-19

View the legal basis