Stolen U.S. baby formula headed for Iraq?
November 30, 1997
Web posted at: 7:01 p.m. EST (0001 GMT)
NEW YORK (CNN) -- U.S. Customs Service officials are
investigating a rash of powdered infant formula thefts in
Texas and the possibility that the substance is being
smuggled into Iraq, Newsweek magazine has reported.
Iraq's baby formula plants were bombed during the 1991
Persian Gulf War, and according to UNICEF, 32 percent of
Iraqi children under 5 are seriously malnourished.
Police in Texas began taking notice of the thefts in early
1996, when Isomil, Similac and other brands of baby formula
began disappearing from store shelves, according to a story
in the magazine's December 8 issue.
By this summer, 120 baby formula heists had been reported in
northern Texas, prompting Wal-Mart and other chain stores to
make the items available only on request, the magazine said.
Texas police reportedly believe items, which sell for $10 to
$15 per can, are being repackaged somewhere in the Ft. Worth
area, then being shipped to Iraq. But to date, Newsweek
reports, there is no evidence of a powdery cache getting any
farther than New Orleans, where police seized 5,343 cases on
a truck bound for Newark, New Jersey.
It is estimated that baby formula can fetch as much as five
times its U.S. price on the black market in Iraq.
Newsweek says Customs Service sources expect to indict up to
60 people on federal charges related to the alleged racket.
There is reportedly a similar investigation under way in
Lexington, Kentucky. Newsweek says a lawyer representing an
Arab immigrant targeted in that investigation claims his
client is doing little more than buying the formula in states
where the prices are low and reselling it in areas of the
U.S. where formula fetches more money.