Food Safety Magazine

News | October 22, 2019

Report: Third-Party Amazon Sellers Are Shipping Expired Food

By Staff

Report: Third-Party Amazon Sellers Are Shipping Expired Food

According to news reports, Amazon customers are accusing sellers on the online marketplace of shipping expired food products. 

CNBC conducted its own analysis by scanning Amazon’s Grocery & Gourmet category. They specifically looked for customer-submitted reviews and complaints that mentioned expired food. According to one data analytics firm, at least 40 percent of businesses on Amazon’s top 100 best-selling food products list had at least five customer complaints about receiving expired food.

Some of the products dinged by negative reviews due to passing their expiration dates are:

  • Baby formula
  • Coffee creamer (that arrived curdled with a “rancid smell”)
  • Beef jerky
  • Brownies (arrived over a year past expiration date)
  • Granola bars
  • Flavored tortilla chips
  • Bottled water (which consumers say was opened and replaced with tap water)

The problem, reportedly, is that Amazon’s technology and logistics system has “loopholes” that make it easier for expired food products to make it to consumers’ doorsteps without first being flagged. There is worry that this flawed system could lead to something worse.

Amazon is home to many third-party sellers. It has been estimated that there are more than 2.5 million food-related businesses using Amazon to distribute their goods, making up 58 percent of the website’s total merchandise sold. 

Third-party sellers source their goods from many places, including flea markets and retail liquidation sales. Amazon requires all food products listed for sale on their website to be in compliance with all applicable laws and Amazon policies. A spokesperson said that Amazon’s third-party sellers are required to divulge expiration date details to the company, and they must guarantee that the item for sale still has at least 90 days of shelf life remaining. Whether or not these policies are actually enforced is unknown. 

CNBC also found instances of food products being sold that clearly displayed a “not for resale” label.

After CNBC reached out to Amazon about their findings, the company said they “took corrective action to make sure the listings were in line with its standards,” These were reportedly “isolated incidents that didn’t require enforcement action against the sellers or removal of any products.”

The company says they use both “humans and artificial intelligence” to help monitor customer feedback related to quality and safety. 

Amazon’s spokesperson said, “We work hard to make sure customers receive high-quality products when they order from our store. We have robust processes in place to ensure customers receive products with sufficient shelf life.”

Still, some of the food products in question were still receiving negative reviews at the time that CNBC published their article. 

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