Hints for safe food purchases online

If you are about to buy food online and the vendor is not known, or you are not familiar with, check the following before you decide to buy:

Who are you buying from?

Is the seller a business, an association or a private person? If you are not sure of who you are buying from, don’t buy!

What are the address and telephone number of the business?

If the business does not give an exact street address and telephone number you can contact, but only gives their PO Box address, don’t buy! Be suspicious if the address given by the business is the same as that of a well-known organisation! Say for example, that the address is in the administration building of Helsinki University!

Which Oiva-grading did the food control authority give the business?

Online shops in Finland are monitored by the municipal food control authorities. Oiva is a system of audit reports produced by the food control authorities, which are publicly displayed to consumers.

If a business sells or markets foods on their website, the business has to publish an electronic version of the latest Oiva reports on the first page of their website so that it is easy for the consumer to notice the reports.

Check the results from the Oiva controls before you decide to buy! You can also check the control results at https://www.oivahymy.fi/.

In what country is the business located?

Think twice before you order if the online shop is located outside the EU. There are no guarantees as to the safety or quality of the product. It is currently very difficult for the authorities to help if the business is located outside the EU.

If the business is located in another EU member country, the control authorities can investigate sales in breach of the rules by asking for help from the control authorities in the member country.

Even if the last part of the website’s domain name is .fi, it does not guarantee that the business is located in Finland. You will get information on who has registered a domain name ending with .fi from the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency Traficom

What feedback have other buyers given?

Try to find information on the experiences of other buyers of the product or the seller. Has the feedback from other buyers been mainly positive? But keep in mind that representatives of the business also can try to take part in these discussions and promote their own products!

Are there many spelling mistakes or silly words in the information given by the online shop?

This could indicate that the pages have been translated using machine translation. In that case, the business operation is not carried out professionally and it is worth considering carefully whether to buy.

Is it safe to pay by credit card on the web page?

Check carefully at the payment stage that the website is secure. It is encrypted if the www address on the page of payment starts with “https” and not “http”. Make sure your computer is protected.

Are the products sold at incredibly cheap prices?

If the prices of the products are substantially cheaper than in other online shops, it can be too good to be true! Cheap doesn’t mean good!

What ingredients does the product consist of?

Before you decide to buy, always check carefully what ingredients the product is made from and whether the product is suited for you. You are entitled to the same information on foods sold online as is found on the food label, with the exception of date labelling. Don’t buy a product if you cannot get enough information on the composition of the product.

Are the promised effects too good to be true?

Don’t believe in everything you read! Some businesses make a lot of money on bogus claims. Such claims are for example claims that suggest or imply that the food can prevent, cure or treat diseases or that you can lose weight fast without having to change your diet or do more exercise.

Always be suspicious of claims that promise effects that are too good to be true. They usually are!

Also claims which are justified by references to scientific research can be untrue, and do not guarantee that the product will have the promised effect. Only approved health claims can be used for food. 

Report problems related to food you have bought online

Notify the local food safety authority if you suspect that the quality of the product you bought online is poor, the product is not safe or the information given on the product is not correct.  For more information


More information elsewhere:

The Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority

European Consumer Centre Finland - Online shopping checklist

Safety campaign by the authorities on online shopping “At your own risk” 

Page last updated 7/5/2019