PHILADELPHIA – THE U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has handed down a penalty for the alleged unauthorized distribution of two pesticide products.

The EPA issued the penalties to PuriCore in the amount of $550,000. The pesticide products include PuriCore’s ProduceFresh and FloraFresh products, which the company distributed to supermarkets nationwide.

ProduceFresh was an unregistered product that is used to crisp produce. FloraFresh pesticide is a registered product that is used in floral departments. Because ProduceFresh was unregistered, the EPA also issued a stop-sale of the product.

The EPA issued the penalty under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), which is a federal regulation that mandates the manufacture, labeling, sale and use of pesticide products. FIFRA is designed to protect the environment and the health of the public through its requirements. One of its clauses prevents false, misleading or unverifiable product claims, which PuriCore allegedly violated.

“These products were being sold with claims that they could prevent, destroy or mitigate bacteria or other micro-organisms, which are considered 'pesticidal claims,'” Roy Seneca, a spokesperson for the EPA, told the Pennsylvania Record.

“All pesticides distributed or sold in the United States must be registered (licensed) by EPA. Before EPA may register a pesticide under FIFRA, the applicant must show, among other things, that using the pesticide according to specifications 'will not generally cause unreasonable adverse effects on the environment.'”

The EPA looks at several factors when deciding on a penalty. The $550,000 penalty in this case covers PuriCore’s failure to have ProduceFresh registered as a pesticide, and while FloraFresh was registered, the company had been distributing it for two years prior to getting approval by the EPA, the agency says.

“When assessing civil penalties for FIFRA violations, EPA takes several factors into consideration, including the company’s size of business, the type of violation and the number of times such violation occurred, the toxicity of the pesticide involved, the risk of harm associated with the violation, the company’s compliance history and culpability as well as its attitude/cooperation during settlement negotiations,” Seneca said.

“These factors can vary greatly from case to case.”

Companies that sell pesticide products must go through the EPA to have the product registered. The EPA conducts a review of the pesticide product and any associated risks of the product. PuriCore’s failure to register its ProduceFresh initiated the stop-sale of the product until it can be properly reviewed by the EPA.

“Companies must submit or cite data regarding the pesticide’s identity, composition, potential adverse effects, environmental fate of the pesticide, and proposed pesticide labeling,” Seneca said.

“EPA reviews the information to determine whether it would be acceptable to register the pesticide. If a company fails to submit all of the information requested by EPA, or if the proposed pesticide product poses unacceptable risks, EPA can reject or decline a pesticide registration application.”

PuriCore’s ProduceFresh pesticide product is currently under review by the EPA to release it as a registered product. No word was provided on when the product could be approved and the stop-sale removed.

When asked about the EPA violation and penalty, the company provided the following statement:

“The company agreed to stop selling the brand ProduceFresh until it is registered with the EPA, and made a payment of $550,000 in connection with the matter which was adequately provisioned in the 2015 results. While the penalty is significant, the company appreciates the constructive and collaborative approach taken by the EPA to resolve all issues. PuriCore submitted an application in 2015 to register ProduceFresh with the EPA and hopes to receive approval in 2017. The company is not aware of any safety issues concerning the product.”

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