2 companies were fined $325,000 after the EPA said they falsely marketed a pesticide as a weapon against COVID-19

·3 min read
A Transport for London worker sprays Zoono-71 inside a Victoria Line tube train.
A Transport for London worker sprays Zoono-71 inside a Victoria Line tube train.Kirsty O'Connor/PA Images via Getty Images)
  • Two New Jersey companies falsely marketed a pesticide as a disinfectant against COVID-19, the EPA said.

  • Zoono USA and Zoono Holdings were collectively fined $325,000.

  • United Airlines was among the companies who had bought the Zoono Microbe Shield, using it to clean its place.

Two New Jersey companies have been fined $325,000 for selling a pesticide they marketed as a weapon against COVID-19, the Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday.

The EPA said that Zoono USA and Zoono Holdings had used "false and misleading claims" about the effectiveness of Zoono Microbe Shield, a registered pesticide, and its suitability for use as a sanitizer or disinfectant against viruses, "including against the virus that causes COVID-19."

The sprays were sold on websites including Amazon and bought by both individuals and institutions, including community centers, per the EPA. United Airlines even used the spray as a coating for its plane cabins, in conjunction with other cleaning measures including electrostatic disinfection. Zoono says it has also supplied Australia's flag carrier Qantas Airlines.

The EPA said the two companies had violated federal laws because they sold the product using public-health claims "that substantially differed" from those approved during the product's EPA registration, which had included its effectiveness against fungi, mold, and bacteria that cause odors, staining, or discoloration.

"Approved uses allowed on Zoono Microbe Shield labeling do not include use as a disinfectant or sanitizer or any public health claims," the EPA said.

The EPA has reached settlements with the two companies: Zoono USA will pay a $205,000 civil penalty and Zoono Holdings will pay $120,000. The companies have taken actions to come into compliance with the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, the EPA added.

Zoono USA and Zoono Holdings are owned by the New Zealand company Zoono Group. The New York Times reported that the two New Jersey companies share the same address.

A Zoono Holdings spokesperson told The Times that the company had bought the US distribution rights for Zoono products in late 2021 from Zoono USA and was "unaware at that time of any misleading claims being made by the distributor or sub distributors."

"Zoono Holdings takes regulatory responsibilities very seriously and as soon as Zoono Holdings received notification from the E.P.A. that in market advertising claims were under investigation, Zoono Holdings halted all in market sales and worked diligently to remove any misleading claims from the market," the spokesperson told the publication.

They added that the company had a "zero-tolerance approach to regulatory noncompliance."

Zoona USA's website lists the product as an antimicrobial surface protectant and doesn't describe it as a sanitizer or disinfectant or as an effective product against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. In other countries, however, Zoono appears to market the product as a surface sanitizer.

Zoono said in March 2020 that it had tested the product on the COVID-19 surrogate Feline Coronavirus and that it was more than 99.99% effective.

Though it was set up in 2007, Zoono Group's global sales boomed during the pandemic, jumping more than 20-fold in the year to June 2020.

Zoono Group, Zoono USA, and United Airlines didn't immediately respond to Insider's requests for comment.

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