Leominster, MA. Wal-Mart Has More Problems With Expired Infant Formula
In October of 2010, Wal-Mart paid $775,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by the state of New Jersey over the retailer's selling of infant formula and over-the-counter drugs after the product expiration date. Wal-Mart signed a Consent Order on October 19, 2010 to end the lititgation, which had been going on since 2008. The same lawsuit included Target, which settled their case in 2009, and paid $375,000 to the state. Now similar problems are cropping up in Massachusetts as well.
According to New Jersey Attorney General's office, Wal-Mart sold or offered to sell expired infant formula and non-prescription drugs to consumers. A New Jersey court ruled that the state had proven four of the eight counts in their lawsuit. Wal-Mart was accused of engaging in "various instances of unconscionable business practices." and as part of the agreement, Wal-Mart had to periodically inspect its over-the-counter drugs and infant formula, and make sure its products were being sold at their posted price at the point of check out.
Wal-Mart agreed to check the expiration dales on non-prescription drugs on a monthly basis, with all products' expiration dates checked twice a year, and to verify monthly online that each store has completed its expired non-prescription drug check. Wal-Mart also agreed that its store managers would use a first-in, first-out method for the sale of infant formula and non-prescription drugs, and department managers would verify expiration dates on shelved infant formula containers when they restock such merchandise.
The retailer further agreed to remove infant formula from its shelves one month prior to the date of expiration, and to remove non-prescription drugs from shelves at least three months prior to the date of expiration. The company also agreed to follow uniform practices for destroying or returning to the manufacturing any infant formula removed from shelves.
"This settlement puts the onus on Wal-Mart to check expiration dates when stocking its shelves, to periodically recheck stocked items, and then remove from sale any infant formula or non-prescription drugs that are past expiration," the New Jersey Attorney General said at the time. "A responsible retailer should do no less and we expect full compliance at Wal-Mart's 54 New Jersey stores." This case is similar to one in 2003 in New Jersey in which Wal-Mart entered into a Consent Order regarding infant formula that had expired and over-the-counter drugs.
Now, less than two years after the New Jersey Consent Decree, it appears that Wal-Mart is having similar troubles -- this time in Massachusetts -- with expired infant formula.
Vincent Ingalls lives in Clinton, Massachusetts. He has been engaged in a one-man watchdog campaign over Wal-Mart infant formula. "I have written Wal-Mart and Enfamil," he told Sprawl-Busters this week. "No response to date, although it's only been 3 days. I know they agreed on the record in New Jersey to be on top of medicine and formula but why wouldn't that trickle down from corporate to other stores? Is it only because they were caught and had to say something to appease the courts in New Jersey?"
"When I walked up to managers and showed them the pictures I took in stores on my phone they went and pulled the formula -- but they're not getting the point. In one instance, one box of formula was 5 months old. There have been 4 Wal-Marts I have been to that had expired formula. I was only able to snap pictures of two because the other times my cell was dead."
Ingalls says he wrote to Enfamil directly. "I sent [photos] to both companies through their website. Each letter was adjusted to be geared towards the parties. I have been to two Wal-Mart stores, and while me and my wife love the simplicity and quality of your Enfamil formula...We're having a tough time finding a Wal-Mart that does not have EXPIRED products on their shelves. We try and try and finally we're giving up to find non expired Enfamil at Wal-Mart."
"Each time I have taken pictures of their expired products and showed it to Wal-Mart managers, they go and pull the products. While it's awfully nice of them to pull the product, we can't find ONE Wal-Mart that does not have expired Enfamil on their shelves. The pictures I took are just the tip of the iceberg because not only is the Enfamil Gentlease expired , almost all of their Enfamil product is expired. We're tasked with driving around trying to find non-expired product and when we find some -- like at CVS -- they don't have Gentlease on their shelves, so we have to substitute, making for a fussy,gassy little baby."
Ingalls says he wrote to the Enfamil company "so you know how Wal-Mart feels about their customers and how you as a company are losing business due to Wal-Mart's lack of attention. We REALLY REALLY REALLY want to buy your product but it seems we just can't." Ingalls has offered to send Enfamil photos of their expired products on Wal-Mart shelves at the Leominders and Leicester, Massachusetts stores.
What you can do: Wal-Mart has to be extremely careful of the trust relationship it maintains with its customers. If Wal-Mart Moms feel they have to carefully check the price and expiration date of each product they put into their cart, it undermines that trust.
The fact that Wal-Mart was selling out-of-date infant formula is about the worst product you could pick to sow doubt among the Wal-Mart Moms. Wal-Mart is relying on the expectation that its shoppers will have a much shorter memory than the Attorney General of New Jersey.
But the "infant formula scam" is a sloppy operations error for a company that prides itself on flawless execution. That's why it was worth $775,000 to shorten this story's shelf-life in New Jersey. Apparently Vincent Ingalls has found that Wal-Mart's infant formula problem has leaked into Massachusetts as well, and who knows how many other states?
Readers who want more background on the New Jersey case, or wish to read the settlement agreement, should go to: http://nj.gov/oag/newsreleases10/pr20101019c.html.
Readers are urged to cut this story and email it to Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley at: http://www.mass.gov/ago/consumer-resources/consumer-assistance/consumer-complaint.html. Submit this story as a Consumer Complaint to the AG using the AG's weblink.
Babies should not have to drink out-of-date infant formula -- not at Wal-Mart, Target, or anywhere.