Amazon Has Been Shipping Expired Food to Customers

CC BY 4.0. Tdorante10

Beef jerky, coffee creamer, and baby formula have all shown up well past their expiry date, threatening consumer healthy and angering brands.

Customer complaints about Amazon selling expired food products are on the rise. A report by CNBC cites numerous examples of customers receiving expired baby formula, coffee creamer, beef jerky, granola bars, brownies, crackers, hot sauce, tea and more, all of which are well past their expiry date. Not only is this gross, but it raises questions about consumer safety.

A big part of the problem is Amazon's setup. It allows third-party retailers to sell consumable products on its site, but these sellers are supposed to provide Amazon with proof of an expiry date that's at least 90 days away. This is monitored by a mix of human and artificial intelligence, but the sheer size of the operation is difficult to police, with food sellers now representing 58 percent of the company's total merchandise sold, and much of this purchased from "official distributors, flea markets and clearance aisles." CNBC reports:

"A data analytics firm that specializes in the Amazon Marketplace recently analyzed the site’s 100 best-selling food products for CNBC and found that at least 40 percent of sellers had more than five customer complaints about expired goods."

These complaints create two damaged parties – the annoyed customers who struggle to get refunds (and whose online complaints are often deleted by Amazon if the item was shipped from their own warehouse), and the brand whose product has arrived expired on someone's doorstep, through no fault of their own, but is often targeted and criticized on social media as a result.

Sarah Sorscher, deputy director of regulatory affairs at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, is alarmed by this clearly inadequate system for overseeing food safety: "Expiration dates are a red flag for what else is harder to see. If you can’t do something as basic as check an expiration date, then what else are you missing?"

For me, it's just another reminder of why it's important to source ingredients as close to home as possible, even if they are foreign, imported products that are at least being handled by a local retailer. The more lengthy and convoluted an ingredient's journey from producer to table, the greater the likelihood of error and lack of oversight and accountability.