Amazon’s Marketplace woes extend to food products

A new report shows that Amazon often sells expired food -- and brands often have to take matters into their own hands to prevent spoiled foods from reaching customers.

October 22, 2019

Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images

It’s more zaniness from the ’Zon. As CNBC reports, Amazon is regularly selling expired foods ranging from beef jerky to baby formula. Yummo.

What’s the (expired) beef?

It’s well established that Amazon Marketplace, which consists of millions of third-party sellers, has an issue with counterfeit and unsafe products. 

Amazon might have gained some culinary cred after it purchased the upscale grocery chain Whole Foods, but customer reviews show a real problem with expired, unsafe, or just-plain-gross edibles. For example, multiple reviews for Fiji bottled water claim shoppers received “recycled” Fiji bottles filled with tap water. That’s a big ew to l’eau. 

A data analytics firm found that 40% of the sellers of Amazon’s 100 top-selling food items had at least 5 complaints about food being expired. The Fiji thing apparently isn’t an isolated incident.

How does this keep happening?

Food is part of the 58% of merchandise sold by 3rd-party sellers in Amazon’s $900B empire. Third-party merchants making up the Marketplace can be official distributors or randos selling product they picked up in clearance aisles and closeout sales. Further muddying the waters: Two sellers can exist within the same listing, so it’s truly luck of the draw whether a transaction goes well.

Amazon says Marketplace vendors must provide expiration dates and 90-day shelf lives if they’re selling food products… but that’s clearly not happening. Consumer safety advocates worry that the problem is going to get worse as the Marketplace grows.

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