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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 National Law Review, Volume X, Number 97
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About this Author

Alan J. Sachs Regulatory Attorney Beveridge & Diamond Washington, DC
Principal

Alan’s practice focuses on the wide range of regulatory issues faced by the global agriculture, food, biotechnology, and bioenergy industries.

Practicing environmental law provides him with daily opportunities to use his legal skills and training to help clients overcome often extremely technical business and regulatory challenges in order to ensure compliance with applicable environmental requirements.

He advises numerous Forbes Global 2000 companies on the legal and regulatory requirements associated with both domestic and foreign production, and the import, export, and...

202-789-6049
Mackenzie S. Schoonmaker Environmental Litigation Attorney Beveridge & Diamond New York, NY
Principal

Mackenzie’s practice includes both litigation and regulatory matters arising under FIFRA, the Clean Water Act, and related environmental laws.

She is passionate about conserving air, water, wildlife, and land for future generations, and enjoys helping clients navigate and enforce the detailed framework of environmental law because she believes compliance is key to preventing adverse impacts to the environment.

Mackenzie is a co-chair of Beveridge & Diamond’s Industrial Hemp & Cannabis industry team. She advises clients, and regularly writes and presents, on federal and state environmental regulations impacting this thriving industry. 

Under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), Mackenzie represents pesticide companies in data compensation arbitrations, focusing on defending the rights of data owners against follow-on registrants of pesticides. She has also worked extensively with task forces comprised of national and multinational companies of all sizes that operate as joint ventures or limited liability companies to generate data and other information to meet government requirements under FIFRA.

Among the wide range of issues under the Clean Water Act that Mackenzie has handled are assisting companies with responses to Clean Water Act Section 308 information requests and Clean Water Act Section 404 compensatory mitigation requirements.

Mackenzie also defends public utilities against toxic tort claims. She was part of the team that obtained a defense judgment after a three-week trial regarding claims alleging that the client supplied corrosive water to apartment buildings. The case, Cormier v. D.C. WASA, 2011 D.C. Super. Lexis 7, 84 A.3d 492 (2013), was successfully upheld on appeal.

212-702-5415
Allyn L. Stern Environmental Attorney Beveridge & Diamond Seattle, WA
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, Superfund cleanup...

206-620-3027
Kathryn E. Szmuszkovicz Litigation Attorney Beveridge & Diamond Washington, DC
Managing Principal

Kathryn E. Szmuszkovicz litigates and provides strategic regulatory counsel.

Kathy litigates on behalf of individual companies, groups of companies and trade associations in federal and state courts across the country. She also provides alternative dispute resolution (ADR), compliance, strategic planning, and commercial services focused on the regulatory aspects of her clients’ businesses. Kathy’s practice focuses on clients who manufacture, sell, and use products regulated by EPA, USDA, FDA, DOI, DOC, and analogous state agencies under the environmental, health, and safety laws...

202-789-6037
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