The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) has expanded an investigation into Whole Foods Market after the department says it found evidence of systemic overcharging on pre-packaged foods at the city’s stores.
DCA Commissioner Julie Menin announced Wednesday the department discovered Whole Foods stores routinely overstated the weights of pre-packaged products such as meats, dairy and baked goods, which cost the customers more out of pocket.
The department tested 80 packages of different products and found all products had mislabeled weights. Additionally, DCA said 89 percent of the packages tested did not meet the federal standard for the maximum amount that an individual package can deviate from the actual weight, which is set by the US Department of Commerce. The overcharges ranged from $0.80 for a package of pecan panko to $14.84 for a package of coconut shrimp.
DCA said the overcharges were clear and prevalent in the case of packages labeled with the exact same weight, something that would be statistically improbable given the nature of food products. These products included nuts and other snack products (flavored almonds, pecan panko and corn nuts), berries, vegetables, and seafood. DCA said this issue was found for the same exact products at multiple stores.
“It is unacceptable that New Yorkers shopping for a summer BBQ or who grab something to eat from the self-service aisles at New York City’s Whole Foods stores have a good chance of being overcharged,” Menin said. “Our inspectors tell me this is the worst case of mislabeling they have seen in their careers, which DCA and New Yorkers will not tolerate. As a large chain grocery store, Whole Foods has the money and resources to ensure greater accuracy and to correct what appears to be a widespread problem—the city’s shoppers deserve to be correctly charged.”
The city’s investigation will seek to uncover the extent of the overcharging. Last fall, DCA conducted inspections into how Whole Foods was weighing and labeling its pre-packaged foods where the issue was first discovered. Subsequent investigations into the some of the same stores revealed the products continued to be mislabeled.