California Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown told CVS pharmacies Thursday to stop selling expired products, including baby food and over-the-counter medications, that he said investigators found recently in the chain's stores in Southern California.
Brown took the step after investigators found 48 expired products on the shelves of 26 CVS stores in Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties in March, he said in a statement.
In some cases, the "sell by" dates were covered with price tags or other store stickers, the statement said. The investigation was launched after complaints from consumers, it said.
CVS said in a statement that its policy was to remove items before their expiration dates. The company said it was "working aggressively to ensure that our review and removal procedures are followed consistently in all of our stores." The retailer said it would cooperate fully with the attorney general's office.
California doesn't prohibit the sale of expired products, but federal law requires expiration dates on a variety of products. Brown contends that stocking expired items violates the state's false advertising and unfair business practices laws because consumers expect products on store shelves to meet federal standards.
"There's a reason for these expiration dates," Brown said in a telephone interview. "We just feel the proper way to conduct business is to have your products comply with federal law and be what they purport to be."
Recent probes by New York's attorney general found that CVS stores in that state "engaged in similarly unlawful selling practices," Brown's statement said. CVS/pharmacy spokesman Mike DeAngelis said the company was "cooperating with the New York attorney general in that matter."
Brown's office also said it had received reports that CVS/pharmacy wasn't always properly protecting consumers' confidential data. Brown has asked the retailer to comply with state laws on the collection, storage and disposal of medical and financial information, the statement said.
CVS/pharmacy, a unit of CVS Caremark Corp. in Woonsocket, R.I., said it had firm policies at all of its 6,300 stores to protect patient privacy.