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Stores Fined for Selling Mislabeled and Unregistered Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, September 20, 2010) California-based discount retailer 99 Cents Only Stores Inc. has been fined over $400,000 for selling three household products containing unregistered or mislabeled pesticides. It is the largest contested penalty ever handed down by EPA. According to EPA, the retailer continued to sell the products even after being notified that they were violating regulations.

EPA found 99 Cents Only Stores were selling products in violation of the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) during a routine inspection in 2004. Subsequent inspections up until 2008 found additional problems resulting in a total of 166 separate violations. Originally. EPA handed down a $1 million fine. 99 Cents Only Stores Inc decided to contest the penalty. These types of fines are rarely contested. In the end, EPA Administrative Law Judge Susan Biro ruled the company would pay a fine of $409,490, declaring the retailer’s management had a “culture of indifference.”

Of the 166 violations committed by 99 Cents Only stores Inc., 164 were related to a household cleaner and sanitizer imported from Mexico called Bref Limpieza y Disinfeccion Total con Densicloro which translates into “Bref Complete Cleaning and Disinfection with Densicloro.” The product had pesticidal claims on the label, but was not registered with EPA. According to FIFRA, any product making pesticidal claims, including those that make antibacterial claims, must be registered with the agency, and meet labeling requirements. The retailer sold at least 658 bottles of the product in its stores in California, Arizona, and Nevada. The store also sold the unregistered pesticide Farmer’s Secret Berry & Produce Cleaner, and PiC BORIC ACID Roach Killer III with labels that were upside down or inside out. Boric acid is a low toxicity, non-volatile mineral, and a safer alternative to many other chemical pesticides. Boric acid can however be harmful in very large doses; in some individuals it can also cause irritation and rarely allergic reactions. Having accurate labeling information is vital if boric acid is to be used safely and effectively. So far, no cases of illness or injury resulting from the use of these products have been reported.

Jared Blumenfeld, EPA regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest, said, “We’re trying to send a really strong market signal that you can’t be lax around things like labeling and that having clear information is critical to public health.”

Analysts do not believe the fine will have much of a financial effect on 99 Cents Only Stores Inc. Jeff Gold president of 99 Cents Only said in an interview that the company had previously relied on manufacturers and suppliers, but has since adopted stricter measures to prevent violations, adding, “Our customer safety and quality of our product is always first and foremost in our mind, and we would never want to do anything intentionally to compromise that.”

In addition to the recent EPA fine, two separate class action lawsuits were filed against 99 Cents Only Stores Inc in July, alleging unfair and deceptive business practices and misleading advertising.

Source Los Angeles Times


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