Council Investigates Milk Prices
The New York state Milk Price Gouging Law is not working, a City Council investigation has found. Many supermarkets and smaller local stores are overcharging for this food product which is a necessary part of children's diets.
Commenting on the findings, Council Speaker Christine Quinn declared: "As food prices continue to rise, New Yorkers are finding it harder and harder to feed their families. We must ensure that the safeguards and thresholds for keeping milk affordable are effective and that retailers are following the letter of the law.
"Consumers should have the confidence that a staple such as milk- which is critical for a child's healthy growth and development- is available at reasonable prices from all retailers throughout the city."
Councilmember Eric Gioia, whose Committee on Oversight and Investigations did the study, stated: "The price of everything in the store is going up these days. But these prices aren't just high, they're potentially illegal- and at the cost of our children's health."
Gioia (D- Long Island City) added: "Milk provides vitamins and nutrients, especially for growing kids, and is a staple of a healthy diet. But more and more, parents are having to forego milk for cheaper, less nutritious alternatives like sugary juices or soda. Shockingly, our investigation shows that if you think you're paying too much for milk, you probably are."
In November 2007, staff investigators from Gioia's committee conducted a survey of milk prices at 50 retailers in the city, 10 per borough. Once the surveys were completed, the council compared the milk prices from those stores to the respective thresholds that the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets (AGMKT) set for November 2007 to determine whether retailers in the city were charging prices that might be classified as gouging.
Gioia said the investigation found: •Forty-three of the 50 stores surveyed (86 percent) charged a price that was higher than the threshold for at least one unit of milk.
•The 43 surveyed retailers that charged above the threshold for at least one unit of milk charged an average of 40 cents per unit above the threshold.
•Twelve (63.2 percent) of the 19 supermarkets surveyed charged above the threshold for at least one unit of milk.
•A total of 458 units of milk were surveyed, with 238 (51.9 percent) units priced above the threshold.
These findings suggest that reduced enforcement of the Milk Price Gouging Law has resulted in retailers who are essentially unencumbered by the law and able to set milk prices almost as if the law does not exist, the council release stated.
The report issues the following recommendations:
•The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets should recommence its oversight efforts by conducting more regular price-gouging enforcement.
•The New York City Department of Consumer affairs and the State Department of Agriculture and Markets should work together to increase public awareness of the Milk Price Gouging Law and the monthly milk threshold.
•The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets should implement a more comprehensive system of notifying milk retailers of the upcoming month's price threshold.
•Milk retailers should stay abreast of changes to the monthly price threshold and adhere to the Milk Price Gouging Law when setting their prices.