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EPA Highlights Enforcement Against Disinfectant Products Making Fraudulent Coronavirus Claims

Key Takeaways:

  • What Happened: On an April 3, 2020 call with retailers and marketplace platforms, EPA identified enforcement against sales of unregistered or fraudulent disinfectant products as a high priority during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Who’s Impacted: Retailers and third-party marketplace platforms that distribute, sell or make available disinfectant products within the United States.

  • Potential Actions for Retailers to Take: Monitor products sold or distributed through their platforms for anti-coronavirus claims without EPA registrations and take steps to prevent such products from being sold.

  • By When Should They Act: As soon as possible.

Since the beginning of the global pandemic of COVID-19, the disease caused by novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) has identified a growing number of disinfectant products on the market that claim to be effective against the novel coronavirus but which have not been registered with the Agency or approved for that use. On April 3, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler informed members of the retail community that EPA will be taking legal action against those selling disinfectant products making unsubstantiated or fraudulent anti-coronavirus claims. Many of the participants shared steps they have already taken to help address this compliance issue. EPA issued a summary of the call in a news release on the same day.

Coordinating Efforts to Keep Fraudulent Products Off the Market

Disinfectants, sanitizers, and other substances intended for use on objects and surfaces against microorganisms are considered antimicrobial pesticides and cannot be sold or distributed for a specific use unless that use is first registered by EPA under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (“FIFRA”). EPA typically enforces against the distribution or sale of unregistered pesticides under FIFRA through stop-sale orders and penalty actions.

In its April 3 summary, EPA identified examples of specific disinfectant products making anti-coronavirus claims, which have not been registered by the Agency, including:

  • “Virus Shut Out” and “Air Sterilization” lanyards that claim to protect wearers from coronavirus;

  • Unregistered “Epidemic prevention,” “Flu Virus Buster,” and “Anti COVID-19” disinfectant tablets;

  • Unregistered disinfectant sprays that claim “24 Hours of Lasting Protection . . . Against Corona Virus”; and

  • Unregistered disinfectant or sterilization wipes for “Prevention of Coronavirus.”

EPA noted that these products are not approved for sale in the United States, while emphasizing its separate efforts to facilitate the production and availability of registered disinfectants.

Retailers who wish to be proactive on this front are monitoring inventories and marketplace platforms for anti-coronavirus disinfect claims and removing unregistered products from availability. For a list of registered products for use against SARS-CoV-2, retailers and consumers should refer to EPA’s List N. For more information on List N, please see our alert available here.

© 2020 Beveridge & Diamond PC


About this Author

Alan J. Sachs, Beveridge Diamond, Food biotechnology lawyer, bioenergy industries attorney

Alan’s practice focuses on the wide range of regulatory issues faced by the global agriculture, food, biotechnology, and bioenergy industries. His practice includes all aspects of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) regulation of pesticides, including the manufacture, import, distribution, labeling, registration, and use of all types of consumer and agricultural pesticide products under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). As part of his FIFRA legal practice, Alan frequently supports the data rights objectives of Beveridge &...

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Mackenzie Schoonmaker, Environmental Lawyer, Beveridge & Diamond Law Firm

Mackenzie Schoonmaker focuses her practice on litigation and environmental regulatory matters.  Ms. Schoonmaker’s litigation practice includes representing clients in state and federal courts, as well as in data compensation arbitrations under the federal pesticide statute, FIFRA.  Most recently, Ms. Schoonmaker was part of the Firm’s trial team that secured a defense judgment in the District of Columbia Superior Court after a three week trial on tort claims alleging the client supplied corrosive water to apartment buildings.

Allyn Stern Environmental Attorney Beveridge Diamond
Of Counsel

Allyn brings over 30 years of insider understanding of government operations.

Her experience as former Region 10 Counsel at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) informs her deep policy, regulatory, and enforcement knowledge. Allyn draws on her breadth and depth of expertise to help clients comply with an array of environmental statutes and regulations applicable to their businesses, including Clean Water Act (CWA) and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) permit approvals, risk management under the Clean Air Act 112(r), civil and criminal enforcement,...

Kathryn E. Szmuszkovicz, Biotechnology Attorney, Beveridge Diamond Law Firm

Ms. Szmuszkovicz chairs the Pesticides and Biotechnology Section of Beveridge & Diamond, P.C.'s Litigation Practice Group. She litigates and provides alternative dispute resolution, compliance, strategic planning, and commercial services for clients who manufacture, sell, and use products regulated by EPA, USDA, FDA, DOI, DOC, and analogous state agencies under the broad range of environmental, health, and safety laws that these agencies implement. She holds an AV Preeminent Peer Review Rating from Martindale-Hubbell, is named in the 2013 edition of both Best Lawyers...