PhotoAn investigation by CNBC has discovered that Amazon shipped and sold expired food.

Now, keep in mind that the fingers being pointed here are not necessarily at Amazon as the “seller” of the product, but rather third-party vendors who may buy in bulk or have drop-shipped from overseas and resold on Amazon. Nonetheless, Amazon’s good name has taken on some tarnish because the transactions happened on its platform.

What expired foods were sold

CNBC found a wide range of expired products ranging from beef jerky to baby formula that were sold past the item’s sell-by date.

Why? Well, the investigators say you can blame technology.

“Interviews with brands, consumers, third-party sellers and consultants all point to loopholes in Amazon’s technology and logistics system that allow for expired items to proliferate with little to no accountability,” said CNBC’s Annie Palmer. “Consumer safety advocates worry that as the marketplace grows, the problem will only get worse.”

To its credit, Amazon said it took “corrective action” regarding the issue, but the company told reporters that the incidents were isolated and didn’t require enforcement action against the sellers, such as forcing them to remove the products from the site.

On top of CNBC’s detective work, ConsumerAffairs did some digging of its own and found the following expired products -- or products that raised the ire of consumers -- for sale on Amazon:

  • Kellogg’s Rice Krispies Treats. This product was sold by Kimeco, an Amazon third-party seller claiming to “understand the value of name brand quality products, at an affordable price with the convenience of home delivery.”

“Wish I could give no stars,” wrote one buyer. “DO NOT ORDER from this seller. So disappointed with my purchase. These were to be used for a dessert table & when I received them the box showed that they were EXPIRED!! I ordered them on May 1st & expiration date says April 25! These were useless.”

  • Duke's Mayonnaise. This product is sold by Terrific Deal, Inc. and fulfilled by Amazon. Twenty-seven percent of the customer reviews were 1-star (there’s no way to give “zero” stars). The case with this product was not the expiration date but the questionable condition it arrived in. 

“Received in terrible condition. It was a jar of oil, not at all creamy like the description says. Had to throw it out! It was disgusting. I am not saying all Duke’s mayonnaise is like that but this jar was not good. We were so anxious to try it based [on] the reviews,” one user wrote.

  • Similac Pro-Sensitive Infant Formula. It appears that Amazon is both the seller and shipper for this particular item. While CNBC’s investigation uncovered a minimal number of mentions regarding the expiration date, ConsumerAffairs found a potentially larger concern. A number of the consumer reviews were 1-star, and many of those thumbs-downs centered around the product’s seal. 

“Ordered 2 containers and both ‘New’ seals were torn. One container had the inner aluminum seal torn. There seems to be quality control issues with this product,” wrote one buyer. “Seal was open when I opened the box and there was no way to return it. We will not be using this formula. A total waste of $30!,” complained another user.

Grocery shoppers can’t be too careful

With Amazon’s name shining a laser beam on the situation, it serves as a good reminder that consumers simply can’t be too careful whether they’re buying online or at a discount store like Family Dollar or Dollar Tree

According to the Institute of Food Technologists, the bulk of U.S. food companies stamp lot codes and/or expiration dates on their products. There are two types of codes to pay attention to:

  • Lot Code: When manufacturers produce a product, they do so in batches. Each batch is assigned a unique series of numbers that make it possible for manufacturers to track exactly when a problem occurred and which products need to be recalled.

  • Expiration Dates: These are numbers represented in a date format that are used to provide a guideline for consumers so they will know when a food product is either no longer safe to eat or might not taste as good as it did when originally produced.

When you’re buying online -- be it on Amazon or any other site --  take a look at the 1-star reviews as well as the 4- and 5-star ones. Many times, there are considerations you haven’t thought of buried in those negative reviews.

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