The containers were never delivered to customers. Port workers stored part of the load in refrigerators but they stopped working due to daily electricity outages, officials said. The stench has become so bad that residents living outside the port area smell it.
"There is a large number of containers full of chicken, meat or other food," said Awad al-Qowriri, a health official in Benghazi. Diseases will break out if the food is not destroyed, he said. The fighting has disrupted wheat and food imports to the east, forcing importers to bring in food via Egypt or Tobruk, a small eastern port.
Some meat storage facilities in the city stopped working after power went off for 26 hours since Sunday, officials said. A spokesman for the state electricity firm said the grid was close to collapse as fighting made it impossible to access several damaged plants.
The Benghazi war highlights the chaos in Libya, where armed groups back two governments vying for control. The official prime minister has been based in the east since the capital, Tripoli, was seized by a rival group which set up its own government. Both sides command loose coalitions of former anti-Gaddafi rebels. After the ouster of Gaddafi, the various factions split along political, regional and tribal lines.