Four area Rite Aid drug stores sold expired nutritional supplements and infant formula earlier this year, the state attorney general's office said Wednesday.

The stores at 400 Chestnut St. and 5626 State Route 7 in Oneonta, 119 W. Main St. in Hancock and at 82 N. Broad St. in Norwich were cited by state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. Other Rite Aid and some CVS stores, but none in the area, also were included in Cuomo's announcement that legal action will be taken against the two pharmacy companies.

Officials at the two Oneonta Rite Aid stores said Thursday that based on corporate policy, they weren't permitted to address the issue. A third Oneonta Rite Aid, at 94 Chestnut St., was not cited, nor was a Delhi location. The company's office in Harrisburg, Pa., released a statement to say stores were told as soon as Cuomo's notification arrived to check that no expired products were on the shelves.

``We take the allegations in the New York attorney general's letter very seriously,'' the statement said. ``Our policies have always been not to have outdated products on our shelves.''

Rite Aid will retrain store staff on policies and procedures, the statement said.

Cuomo's office led a statewide probe into more than 250 retail drug stores and found ``an egregious pattern'' at CVS and Rite Aid stores. Statewide, the attorney general's investigation found that 142 CVS and 112 Rite Aid stores in at least 41 counties sold expired products, according to a media release, which reflects 60 percent of the CVS stores and 43 percent of the Rite Aid stores visited.

According to Cuomo's office, the Rite Aid stores cited, the product sold, its expiration date and the state's inspection date were:

400 Chestnut St., Oneonta, Pediasure, March 1, March 28.

5626 State Highway 7, Oneonta, Ensure, Jan. 1, March 28.

119 W. Main St., Hancock, Pediasure, March 1, March 28.

82 N. Broad St., Norwich, Ensure, Aug. 1, 2007, and Similac, Jan. 1, with an inspection on March 31.

Similac is an infant formula, Pediasure is a children's nutritional supplement and Ensure is a nutritional supplement for adults.

Statewide, undercover investigators were able to purchase more than 600 expired products, including milk, eggs, medicines and baby formula, Cuomo's release said, and the companies' practices violate a host of federal, state and local laws.

Because of the companies' failure to remove potentially dangerous products from their shelves, Cuomo sent the companies a five-day notice letter, as required by statute, notifying CVS and Rite Aid of the intent to commence litigation against them.

The ongoing investigation, which started in March, has uncovered ``a shameful disregard'' for public health in the stores cited, Cuomo said in the release.

The release said that in the Central Region, five CVS and 16 Rite Aid stores were found to be selling expired products; in the Capital Region, six CVS stores were cited; and in the Southern Tier region, 12 CVS and 11 Rite Aid stores sold expired products.

Arthur Levin, executive director of the Center for Medical Consumers, said consumers have a right to expect products meet standards set by the Food and Drug Administration and other authorities. Drug products have expiration dates because over time they can lose effectiveness, he said.

``This serves as a reminder to consumers to read labels carefully and to note the expiration date of the products they buy,'' he said in a prepared statement. ``That hundreds of CVS and Rite Aid stores in New York state knowingly sold products past their expiration dates deserves a strong response from government. Attorney General Cuomo is to be commended for launching this investigation and bringing the problem into public view."

Rite Aid Corp. has more than 5,000 stores in 31 states and the District of Columbia, according to Cuomo's release. Headquartered in Camp Hill, Pa., Rite Aid is the largest drugstore chain on the East Coast and the third-largest drugstore chain in the country.

Rite Aid stock is sold on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol RAS.

CVS/pharmacy, a division of CVS Caremark Corp., is the largest retail pharmacy in the U.S. with more than 6,300 retail locations.

The company is headquartered in Woonsocket, R.I., and is traded as CVS on the NYSE.

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