ARLINGTON, VA — February 25, 2009 — The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) praised the introduction of three bills in Congress to thwart organized retail crime, which costs merchants an estimated $30 billion a year in stolen merchandise and endangers public health when thieves resell products such as infant formula and medicine stored in unsafe conditions and carrying falsely extended expiration dates.

FMI lauded U.S. Reps. Brad Ellsworth (D-IN) and Jim Jordan (R-OH) for introducing the Organized Retail Crime Act, House Judiciary Crime Subcommittee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) for introducing the E-Fencing Enforcement Act and Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin (D-IL) for introducing the Combating Organized Retail Crime Act. They originally authored all three measures late in the last Congress.

“The introduction of three bills on the same day by prominent lawmakers shows that Congress is serious about legislating a solution to these costly crimes that threatens the safety of Americans. All together, the bills would make organized retail crime a federal felony for all the perpetrators involved — from the boosters who sweep shelves clean of valuable items to the fences who increasingly resell them on internet auction sites,” said FMI President and Chief Executive Officer Leslie G. Sarasin.

“Too often,” she added, “these criminals are charged with petty shoplifting and receive minimal fines, probation or jail time. Complicit wholesalers, flea market operators, pawn shops and internet auctioneers cannot be easily prosecuted. This legislation would help reduce the billions in retail store losses and, most important, protect the safety of American consumers.”

All three measures seek to control online criminal commerce, known as “e-fencing,” by requiring large-volume sellers to identify themselves, provide contact information, and help retailers and police investigate suspicious sales activity. Currently, these sellers can operate with virtually complete anonymity and move large volumes of stolen goods at premium prices in the global internet marketplace.

Organized retail crime is a growing problem for food retailers. More than half of retailers (55.8 percent) reported that these crimes increased in their stores in 2007, according to FMI’s Supermarket Security and Loss Prevention 2008 report. Companies of all sizes are dedicating more resources to combat the problem, and many large retailers have loss prevention units focusing exclusively on it.

States are victims as well, losing about $1.6 billion each year in sales taxes not collected on transactions involving these stolen goods.

As co-chair of the 36-member Coalition Against Organized Retail Crime, FMI has been spearheading efforts to combat this illegal activity for years at the state and federal levels.