More than 4,000 products declared unsafe by federal agencies have been found for sale on Amazon.com Inc.’s (NASDAQ: AMZN) digital storefront. Nearly half the problematic items were listed as shipping from an Amazon warehouse. Some of the items were even listed as “Amazon’s choice” products. Many of the products were intended for use by children. After reports emerged of the issue, Amazon altered or removed thousands of listings.
Amazon’s store lists an enormous number of products, many of which are produced and sold by third-party sellers from all over the world. Not all of those products are vetted by Amazon before being listed for sale. Items sold in retail stores in the U.S. must pass federal regulations before being sold, but Amazon’s large inventory makes it easy for products to slip through the cracks. Amazon doesn’t take legal responsibility for third-party products and any disputes have to be taken up with the third-party seller.
The list of mislabeled, banned, and unsafe products found on Amazon’s website included medication that lacked child safety warnings, banned sleeping wedges for babies, and toys with unsafe amounts of lead or potential choking hazards. The investigation also found illegally imported prescription drugs, electronics with false safety ratings, and “FDA-approved” products that were never vetted by the agency. At least 157 of the items were items that Amazon said it had banned.
Amazon posted a statement regarding the issue to its blog that said: “Once a product is available in our store, we continuously scan our product listings and updates to find products that might present a concern. Every few minutes, our tools review the hundreds of millions of products, scan the more than five billion daily changes to product detail pages, and analyze the tens of millions of customer reviews that are submitted weekly for signs of a concern and investigate accordingly. Our tools use natural language processing and machine learning, which means new information is fed into our tools daily so they can learn and constantly get better at proactively blocking suspicious products.”