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Report: Amazon has an expired foods problem

Report: Amazon has an expired foods problem
[Photo: Oleg Magni/Unsplash]

More people than ever are turning to Amazon’s website to buy packaged foods, but a new report from CNBC finds that customer complaints about receiving food items that are already expired are rife. CNBC cites consumer reviews of food products that say the customer received food that had been expired by up to a year.

One customer reported receiving Hostess brownies that had an expiration date on the box that was a year old. Another reported receiving coffee creamers that were already curdled inside due to their expiration already passing. Another ordered salsa in December 2018, but when they received it the package said it expired in August 2018. One customer says they even received their Fiji bottled water order only to find the bottles had been opened and replaced with tap water.

The problem does not appear to be with Amazon itself selling expired food items. Rather, the company is failing at policing its third-party sellers from selling food items past or near their expiration dates. Matter of fact, an analysis of Amazon’s 100 best-selling food items “found that at least 40% of sellers had more than five customer complaints about expired goods,” reports CNBC.

Amazon told CNBC that third-party sellers are required to provide the company with expiration dates for food items and promise not to sell items that have fewer than 90 days remaining on their expiration date from the time they ship. However, it appears such guarantees from third-party sellers are hard to enforce, despite Amazon’s efforts to do so. For Amazon’s part, the company uses both human and AI overseers to detect food item violations. As CNBC reports:

Amazon says it feeds data from suspended listings and accounts into its AI systems so they can get better at detection and at blocking suspicious activity. Human moderators can also trigger an investigation if they receive feedback suggesting a product is unsafe. In the food category, Amazon uses a database called “Heartbeat” to monitor customer commentary through reviews, phone calls, emails and seller feedback for safety issues.

However, given the number of complaints CNBC found, it appears the company’s existing processes may not be enough to keep customers safe from the potential harm that could arise if they consume expired foods they assume are fresh. An Amazon spokesperson told CNBC, “If customers have concerns about items they’ve purchased, we encourage them to contact our Customer Service directly and work with us so we can investigate and take appropriate action.”

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