Black Market for Baby Formula Feared by Regulators

Baby food is the latest product increasingly lifted from retailers.

New national stats show store theft rose in 2010, and the expensive formulas are finding their way to black markets and drug rings.

Store staff at the County Market in Wausau say historically, alcohol and tobacco products are most targeted for theft. Catching the criminals is a weekly occurrence.

But they have taken special precautions against the rise in theft of formula.

“We put the cameras up last summer, we put them up all over the store,” said Manager Mary Gaiche. “When we contracted with the security people we could point to all the areas that we wanted to cover and this was one of the areas.”

Last year retail theft in the United States rose at 60 percent of stores. Criminals across the nation were caught with thousands of dollars of the expensive baby formula.

A single can can cost more than $15, but last less than a week. That’s encouraging a black market for formula not unlike those of more traditional targets.

“Cigarettes and alcohol are the number one things that people would want to come in and pilfer and we do have a majority of our cameras focused on our liquor department,” said Gaiche.

Other stores in central Wisconsin are taking an even more secure approach. All the Quality Foods IGA stores in the Wausau area recently moved formula behind the counter. It’s under the same scrutiny as cigarettes and liquor.

Meanwhile, a group of US senators are busy drafting a bill to pass larger penalties for formula plundering. Until then, local stores are doing what they can to stay secure.

“We put all these cameras in, we do watch them,” said Gaiche. “They’re not here just for show, there’s somebody watching them and making sure that nobody steals.”

Some are using the powder to cut drugs like cocaine and heroin, but local law enforcement say they haven’t found formula-laced drugs in our area.


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