Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods over two years ago was a major win for Amazon as that section of the online store thrives on a legacy of freshness. That legacy is being compromised in light of recent events.
Amazon Marketplace seems to have major issues with counterfeits and unsafe products, the grocery section is littered with similarly problematic items in the form of expired foods. CNBC reports that Amazon’s third-party sellers are all-too-frequently shipping food that has long-since expired, from products like Hostess brownies that are a year-old and Teavana goods discontinued since 2017. At least 40 percent of sellers had over five complaints about expired food according to findings from data firm 3PM. And in cases where multiple vendors are selling the same product, it’s not always clear who you’re buying from or whether or not it’s fresh.
In an effort to rectify the missteps, the eCommerce giant has taken down some listings. A spokesperson also told CNBC that vendors have to honor both the law and Amazon policies, including a guarantee that any item has a shelf life of at least 90 days. The company added that it uses a mix of human reviews and AI to study feedback, helping it flag products or whole seller accounts if it catches violations.
Expired food still appears to slip through the cracks, however, and Amazon’s approach to third parties may be partly to blame. In addition to the confusion over who’s selling, Amazon will cancel reviews if they’re for orders it fulfilled using its warehouses — while this is meant to “take responsibility” for the experience, it can also mask recurring problems. There are calls for better freshness guarantees and greater accountability when things go wrong, and it’s not clear those will be addressed in the near future.