New York City's Department of Consumer Affairs is investigating Whole Foods for overpricing its pre-packaged foods.
"Whole Foods stores routinely overstated the weights of its pre-packaged products," the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) announced in a statement issued on Wednesday.
Some of the infractions are minor, such as overcharging $0.80 for a package of breadcrumbs. But the DCA also notes extreme price gouging, like marking up $14.84 for coconut shrimp. Overall, 89 percent of the packages tested by the DCA violated federal guidelines for weighing food, according to their report.
"Our inspectors tell me this is the worst case of mislabeling they have seen in their careers," DCA Commissioner Julie Menin said. The DOC has been investigating Whole Foods since the fall, and the problem has been documented a multiple locations in New York City.
"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," Meinin said.
Whole Foods could be fined between $950 and $1,700 for each violation. According to the DCA's report, which also mentions other grocery stores, the company's violations in New York could potentially number in the thousands.
On Wednesday, Whole Foods responded to the DCA's claims.
"We disagree with the DCA's overreaching allegations and we are vigorously defending ourselves," the company aid in a statement. "We cooperated fully with the DCA from the beginning until we disagreed with their grossly excessive monetary demands. Despite our requests to the DCA, they have not provided evidence to back up their demands nor have they requested any additional information from us, but instead have taken this to the media to coerce us. Our customers are our number one stakeholder and we highly value their trust in us."
In 2012, Whole Foods was fined $800,000 for similar practices at its stores in California.