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Sat Aug 18 2012 17:37:58

Online Food Buying and Selling: What Icky Things Concern You?

By: Julia Wilkinson

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At a barbeque some years ago, I was talking to a neighbor as she popped one of the brownies I brought to the party in her mouth. "Mmm...these are good," she said.

"Thanks," I replied. "I used the Barefoot Contessa brownie mix." And then my mouth just had to keep moving: "I got it on eBay."

Her eyes bulged and her face twisted, and she said out of the corner of her mouth, "I wish you hadn't told me that."

Her reaction surprised me. I hadn't worried much about the issue of buying or even selling food, beverage, or even cosmetics online until talking with online beverage seller and food industry professional Lynn, http://www.worldtradersonline.com, who is interviewed in today's EcommerceBytes Update newsletter. It was eye-opening for me as both a buyer and a seller. I generally don't sell food or consumables, but I have sold makeup in the past. Now I am going to think a lot longer and harder before selling or reselling anything in the food, beverage, cosmetics, or other such categories.

Some of Lynn's concerns are about the packaging and potential safety hazards she's witnessed other sellers risking online, such as using packaging that is not appropriate for the product. An example of this was the use of small plastic ziploc bags for tea, which causes leaching.

Another concern of hers has to do with the recommended 14-day return policy on eBay. She feels as a seller of a food/beverage item, the emphasis on this affects her negatively. eBay points out that sellers aren't forced to accept returns, and they can pick and choose which of their products they will accept returns for, and still retain their Top-Rated seller status. But, Lynn says that not offering this wide return window pushes her so far down in the search results on eBay, it has become a venue not much worth it for her.

What concerns do you have as either a buyer or seller of food, beverage, cosmetics, and the like? Have you seen downright "icky" presentations, such as a family pet standing on the product in the photo? If you're a seller, have you researched any FDA guidelines on the handling or selling of your product, so you'll be protected should you be inspected? Or do you feel the questionable practices of other sellers impact you negatively? Do you feel not accepting 14-day returns hurts your sales? Post a comment here! 




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Online Food Buying and Selling: What Icky Things Concern You?   Online Food Buying and Selling: What Icky Things Concern You?

This user has validated their user name. by: Tula

Sat Aug 18 21:57:29 2012

I've looked into the possibility of selling food online and the rules, if one actually follows them, can be very tough. I don't know if it's the same in every state, but in Massachusetts, you cannot sell food across state lines that has not been prepared in a commercial kitchen. You also must have food safety/food handling certifications. I suppose it's to allow people to sell food at craft fairs and the like, but you can sell food in-state that is prepared in a home kitchen, though I think the kitchen still needs to pass some sort of certification and anyone involved in preparation must have the food handling and/or safety licensing.

I would have no problem buying food online from people who offer evidence of proper certification and packaging. I fear there are many who do not follow the rules, though, and that could have a negative impact on those who do. Some of the pictures I've seen don't inspire much confidence.

For my own selling, unless I can get access to a commercial kitchen somewhere, there's no way to legally do it. Even repackaging food that's already prepared (like buying bulk foods and repackaging into smaller containers) has to be done in a properly-certified kitchen by someone with the food handling licenses. I don't know about the cosmetics area, but I've heard there are some kind of similar requirements for certain products.

If the rules are different from state to state, that makes it even more of a challenge for both buying and selling. I have to say that eBay and food are not a pairing that gives me the warm and fuzzies. It's not really known as a place for buying that sort of thing, so I can kind of understand why your neighbor had that kind of reaction. Yet, I don't think I'd feel the same way about ArtFire, Etsy, or Amazon. I have, in fact, bought food from Amazon withoput even giving it a thought, yet I doubt I'd do the same on eBay... and I *know* there really shouldn't be that sort of difference. But that's my first reaction. It's weird, but I suppose it's a result of eBay's reputation as a place for "junk" and odd stuff like Doritos that look like Jesus or Elvis on a piece of toast. As a longtime seller, I shouldn't feel that way, but I suppose that's a good indicator of what eBay's biggest problem is these days.

Online Food Buying and Selling: What Icky Things Concern You?   Online Food Buying and Selling: What Icky Things Concern You?

This user has validated their user name. by: basset

Sun Aug 19 07:57:45 2012

I have purchased some hard-to-find food items from Amazon or other online sites. Usually from a seller that has an online food market site. I've had no problems with doing this & have found some imported items at good prices. These tend to be foods in sealed packages or jars & I am familiar with how the packaging should look.

As far as home-made cake, bread or brownie mixes go, I probably would not buy them online but just make my own. Although any issues with the product should be traceable back to the seller, I think liability issues might be larger than normal for those sellers. In recent years many schools are outlawing home baked items at class parties for both food safety and allergy reasons. It may be overkill, but this IS a litigious day & age.

I used to buy  some cosmetics on eBay - but lately I've been worried how easy it would be for some nut to tamper with them. There are a few long time cosmetic sellers on eBay / amazon that I would trust to know what they are selling & have quality controls. Otherwise, there appears to be a LOT of counterfeit cosmetics that are hard to spot as a fake. Not to mention the ones that are stolen & re-sold.

There are sites for swapping used cosmetics. The people who participate know they are swapping for used cosmetics. For years, in drug & department stores, cosmetics testers were open for anyone to come up and use. I don't see much difference. People can choose whether swapping is for them or not. Once again, my biggest concern on those sites would be to come across some nut with mal intent.

Online Food Buying and Selling: What Icky Things Concern You?   Online Food Buying and Selling: What Icky Things Concern You?

This user has validated their user name. by: Ed Gadfly

Sun Aug 19 08:06:29 2012

One of Mrs. Gadfly's friends sent us some goose pate from Europe. It was not refrigerated but survived and was quite Edible.

Pardon the pun.

Online Food Buying and Selling: What Icky Things Concern You?   Online Food Buying and Selling: What Icky Things Concern You?

by: Harriet This user has validated their user name.

Sun Aug 19 10:47:58 2012

I wouldn't buy food or other consumables online, unless it is a professional market. After seeing way too many hoarder shows on TV, where they have a sell, donate or discard pile for their hoarded foods and other products, I could imagine that someone could buy one of these items from them at their garage sales or from the place where they donated it, to sell online. Most of the hoarders have mouse, rat and cockroach infested homes. Who knows what kinds of bacteria linger on the boxes. I would also worry about the 14 day return policy and who owned it prior to me getting it. Cosmetics could be old comtaminated, etc. Even sealed cosmetics could get contaminated if they were old enough to outlive the preservatives in them. Perfumes in particular have a shelf life, after which they get skunky, even if sealed. Some perfumes will smell OK, but most will not.

Online Food Buying and Selling: What Icky Things Concern You?   Online Food Buying and Selling: What Icky Things Concern You?

This user has validated their user name. by: basset

Sun Aug 19 18:54:38 2012

@Harriet - ''Most of the hoarders have mouse, rat and cockroach infested homes. Who knows what kinds of bacteria linger on the boxes.''

You remind me: The first time my husband had to call on a large grocery distribution center he came home & told me to wash EVERY canned food item BEFORE opening it. Apparently all kinds of birds, rodents, bugs can gain access to warehouse & distribution centers. I did not see this myself, but it made such an impression on Mr. Basset that now I can't even drink a can of pop without washing the top off first!  

Of course, there is the old adage: ''What doesn't kill us only makes us stronger''.  

Online Food Buying and Selling: What Icky Things Concern You?   Online Food Buying and Selling: What Icky Things Concern You?

by: comet This user has validated their user name.

Mon Aug 20 12:36:20 2012

I have had "issues" with so much sugar soda being dried up on the OUTSIDE of a bottle or can I have handled for others that when I do a glucose stick I will get a reading in the high hundreds!!!!

This is how I discovered a useful skill for us diabetics--you can use your test strips as an indicator to see if that fountain drink you ordered really IS the sugar free version.

But the issue is---how come these cans and bottles are allowed to be covered in rodent and bug attracting spilled sugar product?  

I have bought food items from known web sites but would certainly hesitate to buy from an individual on ebay etc.  And I sell on ebay!  But I would wonder if it had been properly handled and stored.  And in date.  

I was kinda put out to discover that a  local food pantry would not accept an out of date package I forgot to check!  Now you would think that a sealed just hardly out of date package of FOOD going to the homeless would be welcome---certainly this was unopened and useable just surplus to me---but NO it was inspected and rejected!   You and I might not think twice about using a box of say pasta that was a day or so past the sell by date---after all it is dried up anyways and doesn't really change much and the food industry MUST allow at LEAST a years worth of use time AFTER that sell by for non perishables---but--yet---the Food Pantry rejected this stuff.  No prob to me just---something I never thought about.  

ANd again---these huge recalls for food items like hamburger or apple juice that KILLED people are not Suzy Homemaker in her kitchen canning up a batch of raspberry jam.  They are the highly regulated and allegedly inspected food plants that we ALL rely on for our worlds food.  Pick a mushroom or a leaf in the meadow and eat it and it is your fault if you die because you didn't learn what was safe.  Buy a jar of apple juice for your toddler and THEY die because Odwalla failed to protect its product---that is a world wide problem.  



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