Amazon insists its food warehouses are EXEMPT from FDA food safety rules

Wednesday, April 18, 2018
By Paul Martin

by: Lance D Johnson
Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Food safety laws are a very important part of consumer and public health. Food safety enforcement ensures that spoiled, outdated products aren’t consumed. These laws help safeguard against bio-terrorism, food borne illnesses, fungus, mold, and infectious bacteria.

A Kentucky food warehouse owned by Amazon is not registered with the Food and Drug Administration. Is Amazon above the law? Amazon’s refusal to register the food warehouse is supported by Shevaun Brown, regional operations PR manager for Amazon Strategic Communication. He believes that Amazon is in the right because the warehouse is already in compliance with the commonwealth of Kentucky.

Much is at stake as Amazon refuses to register the facility. After acquiring Whole Foods Market for $13.7 billion in August 2017, Amazon now oversees the distribution of vast quantities of food products. If they can push away federal food safety laws in one location, they could get legal justification to push away oversight in their other facilities.

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was put in place to prevent food borne illness before an outbreak occurs. The FDA’s enforcement helps prevent naturally-occurring outbreaks and acts of bio-terrorism carried out in the food supply. Amazon currently owns over 300,000 facilities that do comply with the FSMA. Since 2008, Amazon has been using their Kentucky warehouse as a case study to push back against the federal food safety laws. The ten-year-old dispute with the FDA continues today as the corporation refuses to register the food warehouse. The warehouse, the size of eleven football fields, distributes snack foods, pet food, candy, shelf-stable beverages, and other foods. It is located at 1850 Mercer Road in Lexington, KY.

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Amazon’s Shevaun Brown asserts, “Food and product safety are top priorities for Amazon and our fulfillment centers are not only permitted by state and local health departments, but we have a robust food safety program to ensure our products are safe for our customers.” This statement does not matter, because the FSMA requires all companies that transport or store foods to register with the FDA, regardless of state or local laws.

On April 6th, 2018 the FDA sent a letter to Amazon, warning of their violation of federal law and suggesting voluntary compliance. If the FDA was dealing with an Amish man who mislabeled his local product line, FDA agents would actively seek a trial and imprisonment for the man. Can you believe the FDA put an Amish man behind bars for six years for disagreeing with the claims on his herbal salve? But if it’s Amazon they’re dealing with, the FDA carefully tiptoes around the situation for ten years and asks for voluntary compliance. Meanwhile, Amazon can distribute unregistered product that could potentially make people sick. The original warning letter was issued in July 2008 and suggested Amazon register within 30 days. According to MarketWatch, Amazon reported back to the FDA, claiming the registration is not necessary because the facility does not manufacture or process food and is not legally bound to the wording of the FSMA.

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