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Release Date: 9/29/1998
Contact Information: Paula Bruin, U.S. EPA, (415) 744-1587

     (San Francisco)--The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) has cited four California companies for selling unregistered pesticides and making unproven claims about their effectiveness, in violation of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).  U.S. EPA is seeking penalties totalling over $400,000. The companies cited are Alterna Inc., Beverly Hills, Calif., Pacific International, Laguna Hills, Calif., Micro Pen of U.S.A. Inc., Buena Park, Calif., and Zoo-med Laboratories, San Luis Obispo, Calif.  The civil complaints are based on inspections conducted by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation and other state pesticide agencies across the country.  

     U.S. EPA says manufacturers who claim their product prevents, destroys, repels or mitigates any pest (which includes insects, rodents, weeds, as well as microbes) must register that product as a pesticide with the Agency. Products used to kill microbes on people or animals fall under the jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Administration.

     "EPA's responsibility is to protect the public, to make sure that products containing pesticides are properly registered and safely used,"  said Laura Yoshii, U.S. EPA's deputy regional administrator for its western region.  "Consumers' fears about E. coli highlight how
important it is that consumers have information they can rely on. Unregistered means unknown: we don't know what's in it and we don't know what it will do to people. Consumers should be careful to look for the EPA registration number printed on product labels or packaging, and to follow the product label directions for safe use. EPA is especially concerned about unverified public health claims because they may encourage people to skip the proper hygiene necessary to prevent transmission of harmful germs."

     In complaints issued on Sept. 29, 1998, by U.S. EPA's western regional office, Alterna Inc., Beverly Hills, Calif., was cited for selling an unregistered fruit and vegetable wash, claiming that the product removes bacteria, salmonella, and E. Coli.

     Micro Pen of U.S.A., Buena Park, Calif., was cited for selling an unregistered ball point pen, Micro Cleen-Ball pen, which it markets as antibacterial, claiming it fights bacteria for the life of the pen and reduces the risk of bacterial infections such as eye, ear, skin and urinary tract infections as well as food poisoning and bronchitis.

     Pacific International Group, Laguna Hills, Calif., was cited for selling two unregistered products: an anti-bacterial cutting board, claiming it kills and prevents growth of bacteria, including many life-threatening types of bacteria such as E-coli, Salmonella, Staphylococcus aureus and K. Pneumonia; and an anti-bacterial wash cloth, also claiming it kills bacteria, including E-coli and K. Pneumonia.

     Zoo-med Laboratories, San Luis Obispo, Calif., was cited for selling four unregistered
products: two terrarium or cage cleaning products with antimicrobial claims of disinfecting and killing such bacteria as Salmonella, as well as most fungal and viral pathogens; and two insecticides with claims to destroy mites, ticks, and aphids.

     The companies are working with U.S. EPA to resolve these issues.

     These civil complaints are part of a national initiative to stop the marketing of unregistered products with unverified public health claims.

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