LSE CARR | Jeremy Brice | Regulating online food platforms

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MARTIN: Welcome to this CARR UNCLEAR. Today we are talking to Dr Jeremy Bryce, LSE Fellow in the Sociology Department;  who for the past two years has worked at the Centre for Analysis of Risk and Regulation, together with the Food Standards Agency on a series of research projects which were also to facilitate knowledge exchange and impact. One of the projects focused in particular on a very contemporary issue, namely as a platform economy and how this effects food businesses and food regulations. So Jeremy, tell us a bit about the research.

JEREMY: Well, essentially this project came about because the shape and the structure of food shopping is changing; as I think anybody who's seen the myriad Deliveroo riders zipping around London will know, there's a new group of outlets for food in town which are not traditional food wholesalers or retailers, but they’re outfits like Just Eat, like Deliveroo and like Amazon Fresh. These are marketplaces in which a variety of different vendors can sell food products directly to consumers, and they're a little bit different from - for instance, supermarkets like Tesco - in that Just Eat or Amazon aren't selecting a fixed range of products which they then put on the shelves. Instead, any qualifying food seller can set up an account; they can set their own range of products; they can set the prices of the products; they can decide what information to provide to the consumer. So the way that outfits like Deliveroo and Just Eat describe themselves is that they say they're not a retailer, they're a platform - they're a neutral infrastructure which connects sellers of food with consumers looking to buy food products - and I guess this kind of new commercial role raised a whole load of questions. Who gets to sell food via these platforms? What measures are in place to make sure that the food being sold is safe, and what it says it is? Actually, how are these platforms going about checking whether their vendors meet their standards; who's responsible for doing that? Those were the kind of core questions which I wanted to investigate in this project.

MARTIN: And what did you find in your searches?


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