Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal is suing CVS Pharmacy, Inc. for allegedly selling food, beverages and over the counter medications past their expiration dates at 20 or more of its Connecticut stores.

"CVS peddled potentially tainted food and ineffective medicine. Whether CVS was careless or heedless or overzealous for revenue, it betrayed its trust to consumers," Blumenthal said. Any item past its expiration date should be off shelves, out of stores.

Expired items allegedly sold by CVS include cough and allergy medicines, baby formula and antacids, as well as energy drinks and dairy products, such as milk, eggs and yogurt. Investigators found the expired products in the summers of 2008 and 2009, Blumenthal said.

Earlier this month, CVS agreed to pay $875,000 to end a probe by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo into the sale of expired products in its New York stores, and agreed to implement new policies to prevent expired goods from being sold.

Rite Aid reached a similar agreement with New York last year and agreed to pay $1.3 million and adopt new internal policies.

Problem worsening

Blumenthal's investigation showed the problem worsening since last year. Nearly half of CVS stores surveyed this year were found selling expired products compared to about a quarter in 2008. It also showed numerous stores selling expired products both years.

The lawsuit potentially seeks significant monetary penalties for violations of the state consumer protection laws, as well as an order barring CVS from selling products with passed expiration dates.

"Shockingly, our 2009 investigation showed nearly one of every two CVS stores surveyed selling out-of-date food and over the counter medicine. The out-of-date rate -- double last year -- seems definitely worsening," Blumenthal said.

"Out-of-date products were basics like cough and allergy medicine, baby formula and dairy products. CVS' failure to properly police and supervise its shelves -- allowing out- of-date medicine and potentially rotten food to remain -- is unconscionable and unacceptable. Especially appalling is the sale of expired baby formula -- which loses nutrients over time -- robbing infants of vital nourishment."

Check the dates

"When shopping at CVS, consumers should check carefully and scrutinize closely because out-of-date products may still be on shelves," Blumenthal added..

After receiving complaints alleging CVS was selling expired products, Blumenthal's office in the summer of 2008 chose at random about 40 CVS stores statewide for site visits. Investigators found and purchased expired products at 10.

Blumenthal's office visited about 45 CVS stores again last summer, this time finding 20, double the number the year before, selling expired products. That included all 10 found to be selling expired products in 2008.

Blumenthal filed the lawsuit in cooperation with Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) Commissioner Jerry Farrell, Jr.