- The Washington Times - Monday, October 21, 2019

Amazon customers have been reporting that groceries purchased through the largest online marketplace are arriving spoiled and past their expiration date.

Baby food, beef jerky, coffee creamers, granola bars and more have all been reported as spoiled or past their sell-by date in some instances by over a year, and according to CNBC, third-party sellers blame Amazon loopholes for allowing bad food to be sold.

Sarah Sorscher, deputy director of regulatory affairs at the consumer advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest, points to one Amazon review where a listing for Teavana was shown to have a “terrible chemical smell.”

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The tea was bought two years after Starbucks announced it was closing all their Teavana locations, but online merchants bought their stock and are flipping it on Amazon even two years later, although the bag specifically says “not for resale.”

“At least someone in the supply chain considered these not suitable to be offered for consumption,” Ms. Sorscher said.

While Amazon told CNBC that online retailers are required to share the expiration date and ensure the product is safe to consume for 90 days, Thomas Gremillion, Consumer Federation of America director of food policy, said the rules may be neglected.

“There’s no indication of how well that policy is enforced,” he said. “Some sellers could be making a business decision to sell expired products and let Amazon catch some of it and toss it out and persist.”

These instances include Land O’ Lakes coffee creamer where every cup was curdled and a bag of Hostess brownies that were more than a year expired.

When CNBC brought these to Amazon’s attention, it listed these as isolated incidents and it took corrective action.

However, Ms. Sorscher said these stories could display a larger issue with the company’s monitoring progress, which a spokesperson says includes using humans and computers to monitor feedback to find lower quality food.

“Expiration dates are a red flag for what else is harder to see,” she said. “If you can’t do something as basic as check an expiration date, then what else are you missing?”

Two years after Amazon purchased Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, Ms. Sorscher adds she doesn’t know whether Amazon can clean up the grocery mess on their flagship site.

“They’ve chosen to set up a business model where they don’t take responsibility for the food that they sell,” Ms. Sorscher said. “Traditional grocery stores have a lot of products, but they don’t put it on the shelf if it’s not safe.”

In a statement to The Washington Times, an Amazon spokesperson said the company’s top priority is providing “safe, high quality products when they order from our store.”

“We require all selling partners to abide by strict product quality guidelines,” the spokesperson said. “If we find a product doesn’t meet our guidelines, we remove it from sale and take appropriate action against the seller, which may include removal of their account.”

“If customers have concerns about items they’ve purchased, we encourage them to contact our Customer Service directly to investigate and take appropriate action. Our Customer Service teams are empowered to instantly stop sales of an item if there are quality concerns,” the spokesperson said, adding customers who report food quality concerns will get a refund “whether they make a purchase from Amazon or a third-party seller.”

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