CVS drug stores are becoming notorious for leaving expired food and drug products on their shelves, a practice some critics claim is deliberate and widespread.
The drug store’s parent company, CVS Caremark Corp., recently agreed to pay the state of New York $875,000 to settle charges that it sold products after their marked expiration dates. It has also been fined $5,000 by Nevada and reprimanded by California for the same practice. Most recently, the state of Connecticut filed criminal charges against the chain after an investigation found expired eggs, dairy products, energy drinks, infant formula, over-the-counter drugs and other products still on shelves in at least 20 different stores.
In a survey of more than 1,500 stores in 11 states, the consumer advocacy group Change to Win found that 42 percent of stores in ten states were selling expired products. In some cases, the products had expired more than two years before.
Although federal law mandates that expiration dates be printed on certain products, it does not prohibit the sale of expired items.
“The FDA defers to state and local authorities for enforcement action,” an agency representative said, commenting on the CVS case.
In an article for Daily Finance, Bruce Watson cites a CVS employee who says that while CVS store policy does indeed call for the removal of expired items, the task is considered a low priority for overworked employees.
“The employee theorized that CVS may not be aware of the time and costs involved in policing the expired products, but it seems unlikely that a major coast-to-coast chain wouldn’t have an efficiency expert or two around,” Watson writes.
Watson notes that hiring a single minimum-wage employee for every New York store accused of selling expired products would have cost CVS $3.2 million, a whopping $2.3 million more than simply selling the expired products and then accepting a fine.
“More likely, CVS weighed the costs of enforcement against the punishment for carrying expired products, and decided — correctly — that paying employees to yank old baby formula and Tylenol is not cost-effective.”