By Lisa M. Campbell and Lisa R. Burchi
On March 31, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a Stop Sale, Use or Removal Order (SSURO) to ViaClean Technologies (ViaClean), operating in Philadelphia, regarding the sales, distribution, and marketing of the pesticide BioProtect RTU with claims that it is effective against surfaces from public health-related pathogens such as SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
Under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), products that claim to kill or repel bacteria or germs, including disinfectants, are considered pesticides and must be registered with EPA. Public health claims can only be made regarding products that have been properly tested and are registered with EPA.
In this case, BioProtect RTU is a registered pesticide, with label claims approved by EPA, in part, to use the product to inhibit the growth of odor causing bacteria that cause staining and discoloration, and algae. According to EPA, ViaClean provided two BioProtect RTU fact sheets containing public health claims to at least one customer, including the statement that the pesticide can be used to kill “germs.” EPA also alleged that some online distributors, cleaning services, and end-recipients of BioProtect RTU were also making claims that this product is effective against pathogens, germs, disease-causing bacteria, viruses, and/or SARS-CoV-2 for up to 90 days.
EPA’s issuance of the SSURO is thus based on EPA’s belief that ViaClean was selling, distributing, and marketing BioProtect RTU with public health claims that have not been substantiated or approved through the pesticide registration process. EPA states that it is concerned that customers may have used this product as protection from viruses -- SARS-CoV-2 -- in lieu of other EPA-approved disinfection methods.
This case is another example of EPA’s enforcement priorities and vigilance over the past year to identify products making claims to act against the coronavirus and taking action to prevent further sales when such products are not approved by EPA to make such claims.
By Lisa M. Campbell and Lisa R. Burchi
In January 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) announced that it issued a revised compliance advisory (Advisory) on products claiming to kill SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. EPA first issued this guidance on June 1, 2020, and it is discussed in our blog here.
The Advisory has been revised significantly, reflecting new developments and experience since the Advisory was first issued.
The first section of the Advisory addresses “Products claiming to be effective against the coronavirus causing COVID-19.” That title has changed, as well as the language throughout the Advisory, to refer now to products that are “effective against” the coronavirus, instead of products that “kill” the coronavirus.
EPA has added a new section entitled “What is the difference between an EPA registration number and an EPA establishment number?” Presumably, this is intended to address confusion among some with regard to this important difference. The Advisory now states:
An EPA establishment number is not the same as an EPA registration number. An EPA registration number signifies that the pesticide and its claims have been reviewed and approved by EPA. An establishment number identifies the EPA-registered location where the product was produced. EPA provides a National List of Active EPA-Registered Foreign and Domestic Pesticide and/or Device-Producing Establishments at: https://www.epa.gov/compliance/national-list-active-epa-registered-foreign-and-domestic-pesticide-andor-device-producing.
The section entitled “Devices that claim to kill the coronavirus” has been significantly modified. In particular, EPA has now deleted from the Advisory language that “ozone generators, UV lights and other pesticide devices may not be able to make claims against coronavirus where devices have not been tested for efficacy or safety for use against the virus causing COVID-19 or harder-to-kill viruses.” Instead, the Advisory states legal requirements applicable to devices, namely that the labels “include adequate warning and caution statements and directions for use” and have an EPA establishment number. EPA further adds the following: “Additionally, making false or misleading labeling claims about the safety or efficacy of a pesticidal device is prohibited and could result in the issuance of a Stop Sale, Use, or Removal Order and penalties under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).”
In its “Compliance Concerns” section, EPA states it continues to pursue enforcement against products making false and misleading claims regarding their efficacy against the coronavirus, adding that it is “particularly concerned with pesticide and pesticide device products sold online on e-commerce platforms that are fraudulent, counterfeit, and/or otherwise ineffective.”
EPA has added new language to address a particular issue with regard to “residual” claims:
In the United States, it is unlawful to distribute or sell a pesticide which includes claims that it will kill a particular pathogen, unless that pesticide is registered by EPA and that particular claim has been deemed acceptable by the agency. In some instances, companies have unlawfully added additional claims to the labels of their registered pesticide products that have not been approved by EPA. For example, a claim for persisting or long-lasting effect against viruses, referred to as “residual claims” (i.e., claims that a product provides an ongoing antimicrobial effect beyond the initial time of application, ranging from days to weeks to months), may be accepted by EPA only when supported by acceptable studies demonstrating satisfactory residual efficacy. Until EPA approves a residual claim, it cannot lawfully be included on a registered product as part of distribution or sale. For more information on residual claims, see: https://www.epa.gov/coronavirus/there-anything-i-can-do-make-surfaces-resistant-sars-cov-2. For more information on registering products with residual claims, see EPA’s Interim Guidance: https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/interim-guidance-expedited-review-products-adding-residual-efficacy-claims.
Of interest among the changes to the Advisory is the removal of the language stating that pesticide devices could not make claims against the coronavirus unless they had been specifically “tested for efficacy or safety for use against the virus causing COVID-19 or harder-to-kill viruses.” While any such testing may be necessary to demonstrate efficacy or appropriate directions for use, EPA had not previously stated what particular testing was required for devices or against what testing standard it would determine whether a device claim is “false or misleading.” It remains important for pesticide device producers to review carefully the data supporting the claims made for their devices to ensure that they comply with the regulatory requirements under FIFRA.
By Lisa M. Campbell, Lisa R. Burchi, and Barbara A. Christianson
On October 30, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) announced that it issued a Compliance Advisory on ultraviolet (UV) lights claiming to kill or be effective against viruses and bacteria.
EPA states that the Advisory was issued to provide an explanation to the UV light industry that UV lights are regulated under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) as pesticide devices when sold or distributed with claims to kill or be otherwise effective against viruses and/or bacteria, unless an exception applies, and must comply with certain statutory and regulatory requirements. This is the second Compliance Advisory issued by EPA relating to UV light devices, as an Advisory issued in May 2020 entitled “What You Need to Know Regarding Products Making Claims to Kill the Coronavirus Causing COVID-19” also addressed in part whether UV light devices could make claims against the coronavirus.
The Advisory reiterates that UV lights sold or distributed with claims that the lights can be used for preventing, destroying, repelling, trapping, or mitigating any pests, which include plants, animals, viruses, bacteria, or other micro-organisms, are regulated by EPA under FIFRA as a device. UV lights without such claims would not be subject to FIFRA. According to the Advisory, pesticidal devices are subject to certain regulatory requirements under FIFRA, one of which is a prohibition of false or misleading labeling claims.
The Advisory answers the following questions:
How do I comply with FIFRA if I am selling or distributing a UV light with pesticidal claims?
- Devices do not need to be registered by EPA and, therefore, are not subject to a pre-market review by EPA (although some states require devices to be registered). However, federal regulations require devices to be produced in an EPA-registered pesticide producing establishment and there are production reporting requirements; see 40 C.F.R Part 167.
- Devices must be labeled per federal regulations at 40 C.F.R Part 156. Generally, device labels must include warning and caution statements, directions for use and the EPA establishment number, amongst other label requirements. A description of device label requirements can be found at https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/pesticide-registration-manual-chapter-13-devices#labeling.
- All claims in connection with the sale or distribution of a device must be true and not misleading. FIFRA Section 12(a)(1)(F) specifically prohibits false or misleading labeling (known as misbranding); this includes claims made in marketing materials and on websites. Examples of misbranding are provided at 40 C.F.R 156.10(a)(5) and include, but are not limited to, false or misleading statements concerning product effectiveness (known as efficacy), claims about product safety, false or misleading comparisons with other pesticides or devices, or any statement directly or indirectly implying that the device is recommended or endorsed by any agency of the Federal Government. Companies are advised to maintain records, with information and data, to substantiate that claims made in regard to devices are not false or misleading.
In addition to FIFRA requirements, importers of all FIFRA-regulated devices must comply with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) regulations set forth at 19 C.F.R. §§ 12.110 -12.117. Regulated entities that are importing UV pesticide devices are advised that the products being imported must be in compliance with FIFRA prior to entry into the United States. The EPA regularly coordinates with CBP to identify and reject violative UV pesticide devices at the port of entry.
Can a UV light be a pesticide requiring EPA registration?
Yes. If the UV light product incorporates a substance or mixture of substances to perform its intended pesticidal purpose, then it is considered a pesticide product, not a device, and must be registered with EPA in accordance with FIFRA Section 3 before it can be lawfully sold or distributed in the United States.
Are UV lights safe and effective?
Unlike chemical pesticides, EPA does not routinely review the safety or efficacy of UV light devices and, therefore, EPA has not conducted a human health risk assessment to determine the safety of these products. For the same reason, EPA cannot confirm whether, or under what circumstances, UV light devices might be effective against any pest, including viruses and bacteria. The effectiveness of any UV light device will depend on a variety of factors including, but not limited to, the device’s duration of use, distance of the light from the surface intended to be treated, the UV wavelength, the specific pest being targeted, the strength or wattage of the UV light bulb, the age of the UV light bulb, shadow areas or other factors.
Consumers are advised to use all pesticidal devices ONLY in accordance with the Directions for Use, which are required to appear on the product label. EPA recommends that consumers contact the manufacturer or seller of the pesticidal device directly if they have any questions about how to use the product, the product’s safety, or the product’s efficacy.
What are the compliance concerns related to UV lights?
There may be members of the UV light industry who are unfamiliar with FIFRA and may not be aware of statutory and regulatory requirements. For example, they may be unaware that it is a violation of FIFRA to sell or distribute pesticidal UV light devices that are misbranded or that have not been produced in an EPA-registered establishment. EPA has been receiving complaints that UV light devices may be in violation of FIFRA. These complaints are being reviewed and EPA intends to pursue enforcement, as appropriate. See EPA’s May 2020 compliance advisory on products making claims to kill the coronavirus that causes COVID 19 at https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2020-05/documents/cornavirus-compliance-advisory.pdf and any subsequent updates.
Regulated entities of any size who voluntarily discover, promptly disclose, expeditiously correct, and take steps to prevent recurrence of potential violations may be eligible for a reduction or elimination of any civil penalties that otherwise might apply. To learn more about the EPA’s violation disclosure policies, including conditions for eligibility, please review EPA’s Audit Policy website at https://www.epa.gov/compliance/epas-audit-policy. Most violations can be disclosed and processed via EPA’s automated online “eDisclosure” system - https://www.epa.gov/compliance/epas-edisclosure. Many states also offer incentives for self-policing; please check with the appropriate state agency for more information.
Are you unsure if your product is a device under FIFRA?
EPA has developed a guide concerning pesticide devices that explains what a pesticide device is and how it differs from a pesticide product which requires registration. This guide may be helpful to UV light manufacturers who need to determine if their product is regulated by FIFRA.See https://www.epa.gov/safepestcontrol/pesticide-devices-guide-consumers. If you are still uncertain about whether your UV light product is a device, you may submit a request for a Device Determination from EPA. Instructions for submitting a request can be found at: https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/pesticide-registration-manual-chapter-13-devices#obtain.
UV light devices are a heightened focus of EPA, whose import and enforcement officials have been reviewing materials (e.g., import documents, websites) related to devices and increasingly bringing enforcement actions against companies for FIFRA violations. These actions can address circumstances when a pesticide device is not produced in a registered establishment or when the label does not include certain requirement elements, but more recently EPA seems particularly interested in the claims that are being made with regard to these devices and whether those claims are “false and misleading” under EPA’s regulations.
Ensuring that claims related to the efficacy of the device are not considered by EPA to be “false and misleading” can be especially difficult based on the facts that EPA does not review and approve data that support the claims being made, and also that EPA has not historically provided guidance as to the type of data that it would require to support an efficacy claim for a pesticide device. This Advisory is interesting to the extent that EPA sets forth various factors to be considered when determining the effectiveness of a UV light device. These factors include, but are not limited to “the device’s duration of use, distance of the light from the surface intended to be treated, the UV wavelength, the specific pest being targeted, the strength or wattage of the UV light bulb, the age of the UV light bulb, shadow areas or other factors.” The May 2020 Advisory further states that “UV lights and other pesticide devices may not be able to make claims against coronavirus where devices have not been tested for efficacy or safety for use against the virus causing COVID-19 or harder-to-kill viruses.” (Emphasis in original.) In light of the two advisories, it is critical for pesticide device producers to review carefully the data supporting the claims made for their devices to ensure that they comply with the regulatory requirements under FIFRA.
By Lisa M. Campbell and Lisa R. Burchi
On October 15, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a settlement with Electrolux Home Products, Inc. (Electrolux) to resolve alleged violations of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) for importing air filter products that contain nanosilver. Specifically, the settlement resolves EPA’s claims that Electrolux imported unregistered pesticides in violation of FIFRA Section 12(a)(1)(A) and failed to file the required Notices of Arrival in violation of FIFRA Section 12(a)(2)(N). As part of the settlement, Electrolux will pay a civil penalty in the amount of $6,991,400. The Consent Agreement and Final Order (CAFO) is available here.
According to EPA, Electrolux imported approximately 420,000 Frigidaire brand dehumidifiers and air conditioners that contained filters incorporating an unregistered nanosilver and that were labeled and marketed with pesticidal claims. With regard to the incorporation of nanosilver, there currently are no nanosilver pesticide products registered with EPA for use in home appliances to disinfect the ambient air or protect the health of the user. The only nanosilver pesticides that are currently registered with EPA are approved solely for incorporation into textiles to protect those articles themselves from antimicrobial pests such as mold and bacteria that can cause deterioration, discoloration, or odors. In those cases, the products (textiles) incorporated with nanosilver can be exempt from FIFRA registration under the “treated article” exemption. With regard to the claims, EPA states that claims it considers pesticidal include “antibacterial filter,” and “helps eliminate bacteria in the air that can make breathing difficult.”
The penalty in this case is significant, and represents a potentially growing trend for penalty amounts substantially higher than past cases. This trend is due at least in part to the inflation adjustments to statutory civil penalty amounts, as discussed further here.
In addition to the civil penalty, the CAFO states that Electrolux has replaced the filters manufactured with nanosilver and removed the online and on-box pesticidal claims for the products it had imported, as well as some additional products already in the United States. The CAFO states:
The SSURO also provided for the movement of subject products for the purpose of consolidating the products for a rework project whereby Respondent, among other things, would replace the filter manufactured with nanosilver contained in each unit with a filter that was not manufactured with a pesticidal substance, affix a sticker with modified language over any pesticidal claims on the product packaging, and remove all pesticidal claims made for the subject products in Respondent’s online marketing
The CAFO further states that “Respondent offered to rework all dehumidifiers and air conditioners that contained a filter manufactured with nanosilver within its possession regardless of the date those products were imported.” To date, EPA states that Electrolux has brought over 500,000 air conditioners and dehumidifiers into compliance.
By Lisa M. Campbell, Lisa R. Burchi and Barbara A. Christianson
On August 5, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a Stop Sale, Use or Removal Order (SSURO) against EcoShield LLC (EcoShield) for selling a clip-on badge product called the Eco AirDoctor Portable that claims to sanitize the air of pathogens. EPA states that the product was being sold and distributed in violation of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) because it is an unregistered pesticide making false disinfectant claims. The SSURO against EcoShield is another in a series of enforcement actions EPA has taken against products that EPA believes are making claims in violation of FIFRA during the COVID-19 public health emergency. Some of these actions include the Amazon and eBay SSURO and the prevention of importation of the unregistered “Virus Shut Out” pesticide product. (See our blogs here and here for more information on these two actions.)
Under FIFRA, products that claim to kill or repel bacteria or germs, including disinfectants, are considered pesticides and must be registered with EPA. EPA will not register a disinfectant until it has been determined that it will not pose an unreasonable risk when used according to the label directions. In this case, Eco AirDoctor Portable was marketed as a “personal air sanitizer” that users hang from shirts or backpacks. The product claims to release chlorine dioxide gas to sanitize the air of pathogens. EcoShield also claimed on its website and social media that the product is a “safe and effective germ-killing agent” and, EPA claims, implies protection against SARS-CoV-2. EPA also expressed concerns regarding prolonged exposure to and inhalation of chlorine dioxide gas, which EPA states can adversely affect the health of users.
To find EPA-registered disinfectant products that are qualified for use against SARS-CoV-2, please search EPA’s List N, which currently contains 473 products, including products that went through the expedited review process for emerging viral pathogens.
Additional information on EPA enforcement actions on unregistered products is available here.
By Lisa R. Burchi and Kelly N. Garson
On June 17, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a Stop Sale, Use, or Removal Order (SSURO) to OCCS, Inc. (OCCS) for the sale and distribution of unregistered antimicrobial disinfectants. EPA Region 9 states in a press release that OCCS, a chemical supply company located in Stanton, California, distributed and sold two unregistered products, Sanitizer/Quat Solution Ready to Use and Quat Solution Ready to Use Cleaner, in violation of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).
It is a violation of FIFRA Section 12(a)(1)(A) to sell or distribute an unregistered pesticide. Additionally, antimicrobial disinfectant products may not contain public health claims that are not properly tested and supported by efficacy data submitted to EPA. EPA asserts that OCCS falsely labeled Sanitizer/Quat Solutions Ready to Use product as a registered disinfectant by including an EPA registration number that is assigned to another registered pesticide on its label. EPA further states that OCCS re-labeled the product from “Sanitizer/Quat Solutions Ready to Use” to “Quat Solution Ready to Use Cleaner.” OCCS also removed the EPA registration number from the new label, but stated that a registered pesticide (“MAQUAT® 10 E.P.A. Reg. No. 10324-63”) was the main cleaning agent of Quat Solution Ready to Use Cleaner. The SSURO requires OCCS to stop the sale and distribution of the products, which EPA notes were available for sale on different online marketplaces.
The SSURO does not affect lawful sales and distribution of “Maquat 10” an EPA-registered pesticide that is listed on EPA’s List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19), a list of products that meet EPA’s criteria for use against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
By Lisa M. Campbell, Lisa R. Burchi and Kelly N. Garson
On June 11, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced in a press release that it issued stop sale, use, or removal orders (SSURO) to Amazon.com Services LLC (Amazon) and eBay, Inc. (eBay) for selling certain pesticide products that EPA claims are unregistered, misbranded, or restricted-use pesticides, and pesticide devices that EPA asserts make false or misleading claims. The SSUROs address over 30 products sold on Amazon and over 40 products sold on eBay, and include several products marketed with what EPA believes are false or misleading claims of efficacy against the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, the cause of COVID-19.
EPA notes that Amazon and eBay are two of the largest e-commerce marketplaces and that they oversee millions of product listings. EPA further notes that it has held discussions with the companies, and other e-marketplaces, to stop sales of products that falsely claim to be effective against COVID-19, as discussed on our blog. Prior SSUROs issued to Amazon are discussed on our blog.
Registration of pesticides under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) is required prior to selling or distributing pesticides in the United States and it is a violation of FIFRA Section 12(a)(1)(A) to sell or distribute an unregistered pesticide. The EPA-approved label for a FIFRA registered pesticide product contains directions for use, precautionary statements, and other provisions that reflect EPA’s evaluation of data to and determination of acceptable risk for the product at issue when used as directed on the label. Pesticide products and devices are considered “misbranded” and in violation of FIFRA if, among other potential facts, they contain false or misleading claims and/or if their labels are missing certain required information (e.g., ingredients, precautionary statements, and directions for use).
EPA included a list of the products and devices at issue in attachments to the SSUROs. In the Amazon SSURO, EPA states that none of the listed products is registered with EPA, and that the products were misbranded because EPA believes they contain one or more false or misleading statements on their labels. In the eBay SSURO, EPA provides three attachments listing products eBay offered for sale that EPA claims are unregistered, misbranded, or classified as restricted use in violation of FIFRA.
The SSUROs prohibit Amazon and eBay from distributing, selling, or offering these products for sale. EPA requires that Amazon submit a written accounting of all the violative products listed in the attachment to the SSURO, including providing the location, quantity, and container size for these products, every 30 days for the next 150 days following Amazon’s receipt of the SSURO, or until Amazon no longer has the violative products in its ownership, custody, or control. Amazon must obtain written approval from EPA before it moves or removes any of the products from its facilities. EPA requires eBay to notify EPA of the corrective actions eBay will take regarding the violative products in writing within ten days of receiving the SSURO.
EPA notes in its press release the following examples of what it believes are pesticidal claims made for the products at issue that would require their registration prior to sale or distribution:
- “Kills COVID-19”
- “Complete sterilization including the current pandemic virus”
- “Coronavirus disinfectant”
- “2020 Coronavirus Protection Coronavirus Protection Clearance Sale”
- “A Powerful, Green, Non-Toxic Solution Proven to Inactivate our current viral strain”
- “Epidemic Prevention”
- “Efficient disinfection to prevent the spread of disease”
- “Help keep your family and those you care for healthy”
- “Nontoxic causes no permanent injuries”
- “Ingredients are biodegradable and have no harmful impact on the environment”
- “There is no damage to the environment”
- “You can easily purify the living environment”
- “Safe for all people using”
- “Gentle to Child & Pets”
- “Chemical Free”
EPA claims as additional violations that the products it believes are pesticide devices sold by Amazon also lack required EPA establishment numbers (i.e., site-specific information for the facility where the pesticide or device was produced) that is a required element on all pesticide and device labels.
The eBay SSURO also addresses claims that eBay sold restricted-use pesticides without limiting those sales to certified applicators as required by FIFRA Section 12(a)(2)(F). EPA states that EPA representatives purchased and received restricted-use products listed in Attachment C, Table 2 of the SSURO, but were not certified applicators at the time of the purchase, and were not required to submit proof that they were certified applicators prior to or during the sale. Restricted-use pesticides may only be distributed or sold to certified applicators or persons under their direct supervision. Certified applicators and persons they directly supervise are the only persons authorized to use restricted-use pesticides.
EPA’s press release highlights the following products:
- Described as a “particularly egregious” case are products found on Amazon containing Chlorine Dioxide sold with “unprovable claims of sanitizing and disinfecting hospitals, offices, and homes.” In addition, several versions of the product listed on the site have very little to no English-language instructions.
- Product listings on eBay.com include 55-gallon drums of Methylene Chloride marketed for use against SARS-CoV-2 as a disinfectant and paint stripper. Methylene Chloride is not approved for use against SARS-CoV-2. EPA notes also that EPA banned the retail sale of Methylene Chloride to consumers for paint removal purposes under the Toxic Substances Control Act “due to acute fatalities that resulted from exposure to the chemical.”
- Product listed on eBay called Virus Shut Out claiming to be a spatial disinfection card that would provide protection against SARS-CoV-2 to the wearer. Virus Shut Out was subject to previous EPA enforcement action, discussed in our earlier blog items.
- Product listed on eBay called Xtreme-Bio stating that it was exempt from EPA regulation and made entirely with “clean, green, safe, environmentally friendly ingredients” and that made claims to deactivate SARS-CoV-2.
EPA has been vigilant in reviewing and acting quickly to address products making claims against coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, and COVID-19. The actions against Amazon and eBay are significant, as other actions have been largely targeted toward producers. The responses to the SSUROs will be of interest and should be monitored.
Additional information on EPA’s efforts to discover and protect against fraudulent products is available on our blog.
By Lisa M. Campbell, Heather F. Collins, M.S., and Barbara A. Christianson
On June 1, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) announced that it issued a compliance advisory on products claiming to kill SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
EPA states that the advisory was issued because it has received tips and complaints concerning potentially false or misleading claims, including efficacy claims, associated with pesticides and devices. EPA says it is actively reviewing these claims and is working to identify others. EPA states that it intends to pursue enforcement for those products making false and misleading claims regarding SARS-CoV-2. EPA has made available a webpage where tips can be reported.
The advisory reiterates EPA’s message that disinfectant products that claim to kill viruses must be registered with EPA before they can be sold and that pesticide products cannot legally make claims that they kill a particular pathogen, such as SARS-CoV-2, unless EPA has authorized the claim during the registration process.
In the advisory, EPA emphasizes that it will not register a product claiming to be effective against SARS-CoV-2 until it has determined that the product will not pose an unreasonable risk and will be effective when used according to the label directions. EPA notes that it maintains List N, which is a list of disinfectants that meet EPA’s criteria for use against the virus that causes COVID-19. While surface disinfectant products on List N have not been tested specifically against SARS-CoV-2, EPA expects them to kill the virus because they demonstrate efficacy against a harder-to-kill virus or another human coronavirus similar to the one causing COVID-19.
The advisory also discusses devices that claim to kill SARS-CoV-2. It states that a pesticidal device is an instrument or other machine that is used to destroy, repel, trap, or mitigate any pests, including viruses (i.e., ozone generators, UV lights). EPA notes that unlike registered pesticide products, the safety and efficacy of pesticidal devices are not routinely reviewed by EPA. EPA states that it therefore cannot confirm whether, or under what circumstances, such products might be effective against SARS-CoV-2. The advisory states that consumers should be aware that pesticidal devices making such claims have not been reviewed and accepted by EPA. It further states that while pesticidal device labels must have an EPA establishment number (which identifies where a product was produced), they will not have an EPA registration number because pesticidal devices are not subject to the same registration requirements as pesticides.
According to the advisory, pesticidal devices are subject to certain regulatory requirements under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), one of which is a prohibition of false or misleading labeling claims. The advisory specifically states:
Making false or misleading labeling claims about the safety or efficacy of a pesticidal device may result in penalties under FIFRA. Please note that ozone generators, UV lights and other pesticide devices may not be able to make claims against coronavirus where devices have not been tested for efficacy or safety for use against the virus causing COVID-19 or harder-to-kill viruses. In addition, because EPA does not review these data as part of a registration review process, these claims are not supported by any government review.
Because EPA does not review or register pesticide devices, these products are not included on List N.
It is important for pesticide device producers to review carefully the data supporting the claims made for their devices to ensure that they comply with the regulatory requirements under FIFRA.
By Lisa M. Campbell, Timothy D. Backstrom and Kelly N. Garson
On April 29, 2020, the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) to halt the sale of a fraudulent coronavirus (COVID-19) treatment. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the court’s decision in an effort to halt the sale of silver products fraudulently claimed to prevent and cure COVID-19.
DOJ filed a civil complaint on April 27, 2020, against defendants Gordon Pedersen of Cedar Hills, Utah and his companies, My Doctor Suggests LLC and GP Silver LLC. The complaint alleges that defendants began fraudulently promoting and selling various silver products in early 2020 with claims that the silver products would treat and prevent COVID-19. Some of the alleged false and misleading claims made by defendants include that having silver particles in the bloodstream would block the virus from attaching to cells, that silver would “usher” the virus out of the body, and that silver would destroy all forms of viruses and protect against COVID-19.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a statement on the Utah case that “FDA will continue to help ensure those who place profits above the public health during the COVID-19 pandemic are stopped” and that FDA is “fully committed to working with the Department of Justice to take appropriate action against those jeopardizing the health of Americans by offering and distributing products with unproven claims to prevent or treat COVID-19.”
The enforcement action will be prosecuted in a coordinated action by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Utah and the DOJ Civil Division Consumer Protection Branch, with the assistance of the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations and Office of the Chief Counsel. In addition to the TRO, prosecutors obtained a separate court order temporarily freezing the defendants’ assets in order to preserve the court’s ability to grant effective final relief and to maintain the status quo. A hearing on the DOJ’s request for a preliminary injunction is set for May 12, 2020. If the case proceeds to trial, the government will need to prove its allegations to obtain a permanent injunction against the defendants.
In another case, DOJ announced on April 17, 2020, that the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida issued a TRO to halt the sale of an unapproved and potentially dangerous industrial bleach product being marketed as a “miracle” treatment for COVID-19. The FDA and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) had issued a warning letter to the defendant, Genesis II Church of Health and Healing, on April 8, 2020. According to the FDA, oral ingestion of the defendant's product called the Miracle Mineral Solution can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and severe dehydration. The FDA and the FTC have issued nearly 40 separate warning letters in 2020 to companies selling unapproved or misbranded products with claims to prevent or to treat COVID-19.
Particulate elemental silver and silver salts can be effective antimicrobial agents, and numerous products containing these active ingredients are currently registered for various antimicrobial uses. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, along with other federal agencies, are working to ensure that necessary reviews and approvals of legitimate products intended to address COVID 19 are as expeditious as possible. Products that need these regulatory reviews and approval, but that are marketed without them, are and will likely continue to be a current enforcement focus.
By Kelly N. Garson and Barbara A. Christianson
On April 24, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced that the agencies prevented a significant number of shipments of illegal health products from entering the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and the San Francisco International Airport (SFO).
The products at issue were not registered with EPA, including Virus Shut Out products. EPA previously announced on March 25, 2020, that EPA and CBP had prevented several shipments of Virus Shut Out from entering U.S. Pacific Ports. The announcement noted that because the product is not registered, EPA had not evaluated its safety and efficacy against viruses. Additionally, its label does not contain directions for its use in English as required by law, and on-line advertisements for the product contain misleading claims about its safety and effectiveness. The Department of Justice charged a Georgia resident with federal criminal charges relating to the illegal importation, sales, and distribution of Virus Shut Out, or Toamit Virus Shutout, on April 9, 2020, discussed in our earlier blog item.
Following the shipment denial on March 25th, EPA notified Amazon, and Amazon removed the product from its marketplace. EPA has been in communication with several retailers to ensure that these products are removed from their online marketplaces and asking for monitoring for products with illegal pesticidal claims.
In an effort to curb illegal pesticide products during the pandemic crisis, EPA has been working with CBP to identify and seize illegal products imported from Japan and Hong Kong through International Mail Facilities (IMF) in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and CBP has as a result of this effort seized a large number of products.
EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler states “EPA is increasing the number of approved disinfectants on the market while taking action to prevent dishonest actors from selling fraudulent and illegal items that do nothing to protect Americans from the coronavirus.” This has included EPA’s expedited review of submissions for companies to add Emerging Viral Pathogen claims to registered surface disinfectants.
EPA has released an expanded list of EPA-registered disinfectant products that have qualified for use against SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. List N contains nearly 400 products that have qualified to be effective against SARS-CoV-2.
Additional information on EPA’s efforts to discover and protect against fraudulent products is available on our blog.