On June 10, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ordered Amazon Services LLC (Amazon) and eBay Inc. (eBay) to immediately stop selling a wide variety of pesticide products and remove them from their websites. The products at issue violated the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and many illegally claimed to be effective against SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing COVID-19. EPA Orders Amazon and eBay to Stop Sale of Certain Pesticide Products (June 11, 2020).
FIFRA generally requires that all pesticides be registered with EPA prior to sale or distribution within the U.S. and prohibits the sale of misbranded pesticides (i.e., pesticides that make false or misleading claims, including online or in advertisements). EPA will not register a pesticide until it has been determined that the pesticide does not pose an unreasonable risk when used according to its directions. In addition, pesticides that claim to be effective against human pathogens are subject to heightened scrutiny and are tested to verify their safety and efficacy before they are registered. Given the current pandemic, unregistered or misbranded pesticides that claim to be effective against SARS-CoV-2 are of particular concern to EPA and have been the focus of significantly increased regulatory and enforcement scrutiny. As EPA noted in its news release, “[t]he proliferation of unregistered pesticides in the e-commerce marketplace, especially during this unprecedented time, poses a significant and immediate health risk to consumers, children, pets, and others exposed to the products.” Id.
Amazon and eBay purportedly distributed or sold unregistered pesticides, restricted-use pesticides, and pesticides that claimed to be effective against SARS-CoV-2 without EPA review and approval. Id. These stop sale orders came after discussions held in April between EPA and multiple e-commerce companies on the consequences of allowing or facilitating the sale of unregistered disinfectant products and products that falsely claim to be effective against infectious viruses like SARS-CoV-2. Id.
EPA’s stop sale orders should serve as further notice to the regulated community that EPA is taking FIFRA compliance very seriously during the pandemic. EPA is receiving and actively reviewing tips and complaints concerning potentially unregistered and misbranded pesticides and is coordinating with the U.S. Department of Justice to pursue non-compliance to the fullest extent of the law. Simply put, there has never been this much regulatory and enforcement scrutiny of antimicrobial and disinfectant products.
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