Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. serves small, medium, and large pesticide product registrants and other stakeholders in the agricultural and biocidal sectors, in virtually every aspect of pesticide law, policy, science, and regulation.

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.


 

By Lisa R. Burchi

On April 9, 2020, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced it had charged a Georgia resident, Rong Sun, a/k/a Vicky Sun with federal criminal charges relating to alleged illegal importation, sales, and mailing of an unregistered pesticide product.  EPA also has taken steps to prevent further imports, sales, and distributions of this product within the United States, announcing in its press release that it prevented several shipments of this product from entering U.S. Pacific ports.

The product at issue, Toamit Virus Shut Out, was sold through eBay and made claims to protect individuals from bacteria and viruses and to reduce transmission risk by 90 percent.  Claims regarding the product also included the following statement: “In extraordinary times, access to public places and confined spaces will be protected by one more layer and have one more layer of safety protection effect, thus reducing the risks and probability of infection and transmission.”  The product was not registered by EPA under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).

DOJ’s Environment and Natural Resources Division is prosecuting the case.  EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, and USPS are investigating this case.  This type of collaborative investigative effort among federal agencies can be expected to continue to prevent defrauding victims during this coronavirus pandemic.  In its press release announcing the arrest, DOJ stated that it “will take quick action through the Georgia COVID-19 Task Force to put a stop to criminals preying on the public with Coronavirus-related fraud schemes.”  EPA Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Susan Bodine stated further: “Reliance on fraudulent products may increase the spread of COVID-19 and exacerbate the current public health emergency.”

EPA encourages consumers to review its list of products found at epa.gov/coronavirus for products registered and approved for use against SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.  The public also can report suspected fraud schemes related to COVID-19 by calling the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) hotline (1-866-720-5721) or by e-mailing the NCDF at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


 

By Lisa M. Campbell, Lisa R. Burchi and Barbara A. Christianson

On April 3, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hosted an interactive telephone call with U.S. retailers and third-party marketplace platforms to discuss imposter disinfectant products and those that falsely claim to be effective against the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, the cause of COVID-19.  EPA hosted the call due to recent complaints on the availability of products with unsubstantiated and potentially dangerous claims of protection against SARS-CoV-2 and has enlisted the help of the retail community to prevent these products from coming to market.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler described the call as “informative and productive,” and stated that “together, we will work diligently to ensure that consumers have access to EPA-approved and verified surface disinfectant products; products that we know to be effective against the novel coronavirus.”

Participants included the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), the National Retail Federation, Walmart, Amazon, and eBay.  All expressed commitment to “work closely with trusted suppliers to ensure that all products that they sell meet or exceed all applicable U.S. safety standards and legal requirements” and to “work closely with EPA to remove fraudulent products from the marketplace as soon as possible.”  EPA is also coordinating with the U.S. Department of Justice and other federal partners to bring the full force of the law against those selling fraudulent or unregistered products.

Based on tips, complaints, and research, EPA has identified illegal products that are claiming anti-viral, antibacterial, disinfectant, sterilizing, or sanitizing properties but have not gone through EPA’s robust registration process under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and are not legal for sale in the United States.  EPA only registers disinfectants that can be used effectively against the novel coronavirus on surfaces.  Non-registered products may not effectively eliminate the virus or reduce the spread of the virus and could even be harmful to consumers’ health.  Consumers are urged to refer to EPA’s List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2 (List N) for EPA-registered disinfectants that EPA has determined to be safe and effective against the novel coronavirus.

The following is a list of some of the unregistered products that have been identified. EPA typically enforces FIFRA through stop-sale orders and penalty actions. EPA provided the following information to ensure that Americans have as much information as possible to help them protect themselves from COVID-19:

  • Lanyards that illegally claim to protect wearers from coronavirus:
  • Unregistered disinfectant tablets:
    • “Epidemic prevention Chlorinating Tablets Disinfectant Chlorine Tablets Swimming Pool Instant Disinfection Tablets Chlorine Dioxide Effervescent Tablet Chlorine Disinfectant 100g Cozy apposite Fun Suit”
    • “The Flu Virus Buster, CLO2 Disinfection Sticker, Removable sterilize air purifier, Anti COVID-19, Stop Coronavirus disease infection /Influenza Buster Disinfectant 1 Box/10 Tablets”
  • Unregistered disinfectant sprays:
    • “Fullene silver antibacterial solution/24 Hour Defense Hand Sanitizer Disinfectant Spray Against Corona Virus COVID- 19 Kills 99.99% of Germs Bacteria 24 Hours of Lasting Protection Alcohol Free 50ml (1.7 fl. oz.)”
  • Unregistered disinfectant wipes:
    • “99.9% Sterilization Wipes/16/32/48/64/96pcs Sterilization Rate of 99% Disinfection Wet Wipes and Paper Napkin Prevention of Coronavirus”

Additional information on the recent telephone conference is available here.