Expired food shipped by Amazon scaring consumers, putting brands at risk

Amazon and Whole foods will cut prices on produce and offer exclusive discounts for Prime customers. (Photo: Business Wire/Andy J. Scott)

(WTHR) — The convenience of Amazon makes it hard to pass up for many consumers. All the goods you need — clothes, electronics, home decor, books, even food — come right to your doorstep with the click of a button.

But because third-party sellers are all over Amazon shipping products out, it can sometimes present an issue with the quality of products customers actually receive. And that's not just limited to clothes with unlabeled foreign sizing or off-brand electronics that don't perform like the originals.

The grocery section of Amazon is facing its share of issues after customer complaints about receiving expired food, according to CNBC.

Customers said Items from baby food to beef jerky are arriving after their sell-by date, and it's reportedly due to loopholes in Amazon's technology and logistics system.

Food sellers — more than 2.5 million of them — make up 58 percent of Amazon's total merchandise sold. Third-party sellers get products from places like liquidation sales, clearance aisles and official distributors to resell.

Those closeout sales are a breeding ground for third-party sellers to get the goods for cheap. CNBC reports many sellers purchased discounted products from Teavana after Starbucks announced the store's closing in 2017. Some of those items are currently still listed on Amazon.

According to CNBC, a data analytics firm scoured the site's 100 best-selling food products and found at least 40 percent of sellers had more than five customer complaints about expired products.

Amazon requires sellers to provide an expiration date for products, guaranteeing a shelf life of at least 90 days more than when presented to Amazon. But there are concerns about how, if at all, the policy is enforced.

An Amazon spokesperson said the company uses both humans and artificial intelligence to monitor customer feedback about product quality and safety. A former employee said while Amazon is working to improve the process, there are still problems with its inability to keep expired products from shipping.

"They hadn't yet earned my trust, as either an Amazon employee or a customer, that I would e safe purchasing a consumable or expiration-dated product from a third-party seller," Jon Derkits said.

With its 2017 purchase of Whole Foods, Amazon is a noteworthy role player in the grocery industry, but that could be in jeopardy without rebuilding buyer and seller trust.

Read more from CNBC here.

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